Thanks to new funding from the New York State Department of Education (NYSED), hundreds of students will be able to engage in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) research projects at Borough of Manhattan Community College of The City University of New York (BMCC/CUNY).
Over a period of five years, BMCC’s Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program, or C-STEP, which serves BMCC college students, will receive about $260,000 per year. The Science and Technology Entry Program, or STEP, which serves high school students, will receive $289,000 per year.
“We took a chance and quadrupled the C-STEP budget in our proposal,” said Helene Bach, BMCC’s Director of Research. “We also increased the STEP budget by 40 percent; STEP is the high-school version of C-STEP, in which we bring in students from New York City high schools, to engage in research at BMCC.”
Preparing during the summer, for fall and spring research
In Summer 2015, BMCC is providing five workshops through C-STEP in which students undergo intensive training in research methodologies, data analysis and the fundamentals of hypothesis-driven work.
These workshops prepare them for research projects they will join in the fall and spring, and are contextualized around applied math, microbiology, nutrition, engineering/robotics and environmental science.
At the same time, students from about 50 New York City high schools, many of which do not have science labs, will come to BMCC for the STEP component of the project.
“We’re providing hands-on, STEM-based activities for them over the summer,” says Bach. “They’ll return to BMCC on Fridays in the fall and spring to participate in biology, robotics and chemistry projects, as well as Math and SAT prep workshops. A select few will also shadow our more experienced BMCC student researchers.”
C-STEP opportunities throughout the year
The C-STEP students will join faculty driven research projects in the fall and spring, but they will also have the opportunity to continue their supplemental research training, says Bach.
“We’ll invite guest speakers to meet with them,” she says. “They will learn how to disseminate their research findings to the scientific community, create a poster presentation, discuss data; all the soft skills that go with being a researcher.”
In addition, the students will earn a stipend, and if their initial, one-on-one research experience with a faculty member works out for them, they will have the option of moving into a more rigorous, year-long research project that could last about a year.
The methodology workshops will help maximize student skill sets so that they are ready to fully engage with a faculty member in the lab, she explains, supporting their research and helping them publish their findings in a peer-reviewed journal.
“The students benefit, and the faculty benefit,” Bach says. “Often, the students have such a good experience, even after they graduate, that they come back to continue their research studies with the faculty they’ve worked with at BMCC.”
Many go on to become part of the CUNY Research Scholars Program. Some also receive additional funding through the BMCC Foundation or LSAMP.
“We’re incredibly grateful NYSED has given us this opportunity to expand our STEM research opportunities to serve more students, many of whom will go on to be part of high-impact STEM research in a variety of disciplines,” Bach says.