The BioInspired Institute focuses on cutting-edge research on materials and living systems and trains undergraduate and graduate students. When the United States has had to rely on racism and structural inequalities, the professors and staff at BioInspired asked, “How can we support diversity and inclusion in science, technology, engineering and science? mathematics? At a town hall meeting, consensus formed around a recommendation that the Institute create a research experience for undergraduates that could help various young scientists advance in their education and training.
“As an institute, we are committed to developing and implementing action plans to promote diversity in our ranks and support people of color. The CAREER program is the first effort to break out of this commitment, and we are delighted to have launched this pilot program with our partners at Hampton University and North Carolina A&T, ”said Lisa Manning, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of physics. and director of BioInspired.
“We looked at programs here in Syracuse and at other institutions, and what seemed to be lacking were pre-college and post-baccalaureate programs that would really help promising students go well from high school to college, to be successful for their college education and then move on to similar levels. success in graduate admissions and placement, ”says Jay Henderson, associate professor of biomedical and chemical engineering and associate director of BioInspired.
As Henderson and Manning previously worked with Hampton University, a historically black private research university in Hampton, Virginia, and with faculty at North Carolina A&T State University, a historically black public research university in Greensboro, North Carolina, Henderson reached out to colleagues at each institution to create a virtual summer program to help students seize the opportunity to do original research as undergraduates. Their goals are to strengthen high school-to-college STEM pathways, providing research, mentoring and other support opportunities to retain diverse STEM students during their undergraduate careers and provide professional development and networking to enable a successful transition to higher education.
The result, known as the Career Acceleration through Rigorous Educational Experiences in Research (CAREER) pre-college program, was a week-long intensive experience that took place on the online collaboration platform Discord. The CAREER program included interactions with researchers, assistance in developing a personal statement, discussions on how scientific research works, and career planning for new undergraduates.
“We covered topics such as creating a professional profile and curriculum vitae, finding opportunities with faculty, using on-campus resources, and how to apply for research financial support. summer in college, ”says Henderson.
Fourteen students from Hampton, North Carolina A&T and Syracuse University participated in the summer program.
Melanie Salas, a first generation student from Syracuse, plans to attend veterinary school after graduation. She chose to participate to meet potential mentors and test her commitment to STEM to see if it is right for her. “The most valuable part of the program was seeing the support the professors give to the students. I have already been accepted into a lab to work with Professor Latha Ramalingam at Falk College. I also learned to never be afraid to ask for help. There is always someone ready to help, but it’s up to us to reach out.
While students benefited from what they experienced during the program, faculty development is another goal of the program. “We want to improve the way we mentor diverse students and increase collaborations between universities serving minorities and predominantly white ones,” said Henderson.
After this summer’s successful pilot project, professors in the program plan to review the results, such as the number of students participating in research during the year and each summer, internship and scholarship applications, and long-term outcomes such as obtaining a STEM degree and admission to graduate programs. Professors from the three institutions hope to form collaborative research programs where students can gain hands-on experience in multi-institutional scientific research.
“Our next step is to seek additional funds,” says Henderson. “We invest our time and expertise because we believe that STEM disciplines can only benefit from broader representation. Partnerships with Hampton and North Carolina A&T can help us broaden the pool from which we recruit graduate students and post-docs, and the program has already taught us how to improve the way we work with undergraduates.