McNair Scholars Program




The McNair Scholars Program prepares qualified juniors and seniors for graduate study leading to PhD degrees.

McNair Scholars receive comprehensive support to earn undergraduate degrees, complete research projects in their fields of study, and apply to graduate schools.

The program’s limited size provides a close-knit community while helping students gain a broad understanding of research and university culture.

Check eligibility

►  View previous program cohorts
►  Information about mentoring scholars


Years Funded by U.S. Dept. of Education
UO Students Served in Last 10 Years
of UO McNair Scholars moved on to grad school

About Ronald McNair

Ronald Erwin McNair was born October 21, 1950 in Lake City, South Carolina. While in junior high school, Dr. McNair was inspired to work hard and persevere in his studies by his family and by a teacher who recognized his scientific potential and believed in him. Dr. McNair graduated as valedictorian from Carver High School in 1967. In 1971, he graduated magna cum laude and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from North Carolina A&T State University (Greensboro). Dr. McNair then enrolled in the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1976, at the age of 26, he earned his Ph.D. in laser physics. His dissertation was titled, “Energy Absorption and Vibrational Heating in Molecules Following Intense Laser Excitation.” Dr. McNair was presented an honorary doctorate of Laws from North Carolina A&T State University in 1978, an honorary doctorate of Science from Morris College in 1980, and an honorary doctorate of science from the University of South Carolina in 1984.

While working as a staff physicist with Hughes Research Laboratory, Dr. McNair soon became a recognized expert in laser physics. His many distinctions include being a Presidential Scholar (1971-74), a Ford Foundation Fellow (1971-74), a National Fellowship Fund Fellow (1974-75), and a NATO Fellow (1975). He was also a sixth degree black belt in karate and an accomplished saxophonist. Because of his many accomplishments, he was selected by NASA for the space shuttle program in 1978. His first space shuttle mission launched successfully from Kennedy Space Center on February 3, 1984. Dr. Ronald E. McNair was the second African American to fly in space. Two years later he was selected to serve as mission specialist aboard the ill-fated U.S. Challenger space shuttle. He was killed instantly when the Challenger exploded one minute, thirteen seconds after it was launched. Dr. McNair was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor. After his death in the Challenger Space Shuttle accident on January 28, 1986, members of Congress provided funding for the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program. Their goal was to encourage low-income and first-generation college students, and students from historically underrepresented ethnic groups to expand their educational opportunities by enrolling in a Ph.D. program and ultimately pursue an academic career. This program is dedicated to the high standards of achievement inspired by Dr. McNair’s life.




The McNair Scholars Program


The McNair Scholars Program is a federal TRIO program funded at 151 institutions across the United States and Puerto Rico by the U.S. Department of Education. It is designed to prepare undergraduate students for doctoral studies through involvement in research and other scholarly activities. McNair participants are either first-generation college students with financial need, or members of a group that is traditionally underrepresented in graduate education and have demonstrated strong academic potential. The goal of the McNair Scholars Program is to increase graduate degree awards for students from underrepresented segments of society.

See the Programs around the US

Experiences & Benefits
Strengthen academic skills for future graduate study
Receive in-depth advising regarding future plans
Build deeper relationships with university faculty
Prepare for and conduct primary academic research
Present and publish research projects
Writing Research Proposal & Budgets
The Culture of Graduate School
Presentation & Publication of Academic Research
Academic Research Writing
GRE Test Preparation
Applying to Grad School
Writing Personal Statements
Finding the Right Fit
Effective Use of the Library & Other Research Tools
Technology Use

The Launch Pad

Interested in the McNair Scholars Program or similar opportunities in the future?

Join the Launch Pad, a community of Ducks interested in undergraduate research and distinguished scholarships.

Members will have access to:

  • Workshops on conducting undergraduate research and applying to graduate school
  • Support in finding research funding opportunities and in applying for scholarships
  • Priority preference if they decide to apply to McNair Scholars Program

Join now


Are you eligible?

Students must be US citizens or permanent residents who are also either first-generation college students who are low-income AND/OR students from groups historically underrepresented in US higher education.


Apply to Program

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: I'm currently a senior and am graduating this academic year. Can I apply to join the McNair Scholars Program?

A: Participation in our program requires enrollment at the University of Oregon in part or all of next academic year. If you are graduating in the spring or summer, unfortunately we would not recommend you apply.

Q: I’m a post-bacc or graduate student. Can I be a McNair Scholar?

A: Our program is geared towards students who have not yet earned a bachelor’s degree. Only students who are academically classified as “juniors” or “sophomores” are encouraged to apply.

Q: I’m an international student. Can I be a McNair Scholar?

A: Unfortunately, only US Citizens or Permanent Residents can apply for this program, which is federally-funded by the US Department of Education.

Q: Does this program provide a scholarship?

A: The primary purpose of this program is geared towards helping students prepare for and apply to PhD programs during their time in an undergraduate program. While there is some funding for specific parts of this experience (summer research and related expenses as well as for the McNair class), there is not substantial financial support that the program itself provides for its students.

Students entering the McNair Scholars Program must:
Be committed to success and the pursuit of graduate education and academic research
Have earned at least 90 undergraduate credits and be classified as a Junior
Have at least six quarters (including summer) until expected graduation date
Have completed (or be enrolled in) some upper division course work in major
Be in Good Standing with the University of Oregon
Have a GPA that is competitive for entry into graduate school
You are a first-generation student if either:
Neither parent (natural or adoptive) earned a bachelor's degree before your 18th birthday
You resided with and also received support from only one parent who did not earn a bachelor's degree before you were 18
You are a low-income student if:
Your taxable income reported on last year's tax returns does not exceed 150% of the federally defined poverty line
Historically underrepresented groups, according to the Higher Education Act:
Black/African American, Hispanic, Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, and Native Pacific Islander

Apply to McNair Scholars Program