Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program

About Ronald E. McNair, Ph.D.

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 Ronald E McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program is a highly competitive program funded by the U.S. Department of Education to prepare undergraduate college students in their sophomore through senior year who are low income, first generation, and/or underrepresented in graduate education for doctoral education. The program was named in honor of the astronaut who died in the 1986 Space Shuttle explosion. Currently, there are 194 programs nationally assisting students in the attainment of their education and personal academic goals through participation in research, faculty mentorship, and other scholarly activities.


  • Must be a United States Citizens or meet all Resident Requirements
  • Must have an overall G.P.A. of 2.5 or higher
  • A  member of a group that is underrepresented in graduate/doctoral education
  • Must demonstrate academic need and potential success 
  • Must show interest and complete masters/PhD degrees
  • First Generation College student and meet the federal requirements of taxable income levels

Apply for the Program:

You may apply for the McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program by downloading the application below, fax, mail or, return the filled out application to the TRiO Office in Halladay Student Services Building, Room 302.  Fax: 903-468-3220 Mail: P.O. Box 3011 Commerce, TX 75429.


McNair Application

Volunteer versus Regular

Mentor Handbook

Mentor Reports

Mentor Contact Form 

Scholars Handbook

Proposal Application

Scholars Time and Effort

Procedures for Extension

Research Extension Form

External Links

Services and Benefits:

  • Research Opportunities
  • Summer Internships/Stipend
  • Professional Conferences/Workshops/Seminars and Symposiums
  • Faculty –Mentored Research
  • Academic Counseling
  • Personal Advising
  • Financial Aid Advising and Scholarship searches
  • Graduate Record Exam (GRE) preparation and assistance
  • Assistance in securing graduate admissions
  • Fellowships and internships searches
  • Graduate Programs Visitations
  • Research Presentations and Publications


The mission of the Texas A&M University-Commerce Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Scholar's Program is to prepare and increase the number of undergraduate students in the fields of Math, Sciences: Engineering/Technology, Chemistry, Physics, Biology and Environmental Sciences, Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, English/Literature, Agriculture, Business/MIS (Management Information System), Computer Science & Information System, Education, Criminal Justice, Sociology, History, and Political Science.  

Students who participate in the program come from underrepresented groups, showing strong academic potential, and are committed to pursuing a doctoral degree.