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S-STEM Students Delve into Research

Published on June 29, 2012

S-STEMA group of incoming first-year biology majors attending a week-long orientation at Susquehanna University were asked by one of their science professors to draw what a typical scientist looks like. They drew white males in lab coats, spiky-haired and clutching foaming beakers while calculating complex equations in their thought balloons. Crossed-out doodles of music notes and smiling stick figures suggested that a scientist can neither participate in the arts nor enjoy a healthy social life.

“You don’t have to be Bill Nye to be a scientist,” noted Professor of Biology Peggy Peeler. The stereotypes were a main discussion point one morning for the 11 students who comprise the university’s first STEM-BIOS group.

Funded by an S-STEM (Scholarships–Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) grant from the National Science Foundation, Susquehanna’s Broadening Intensive Opportunities for Scholarship (BIOS) program provides financial and programming support for academically qualified biology students who have been historically underrepresented in the sciences. They include students of color, first-generation college students and those from geographical locations underrepresented at Susquehanna.

The program will offer science scholarships, summer orientation, mentoring, advising, and opportunities for research and internships to 10 to 12 select students annually for three years.

The STEM-BIOS students spent the week of June 25 on campus conducting lab and field work, getting acquainted with science faculty, and learning more about Susquehanna’s biology program. Activities ranged from catching wolf spiders in a soybean field to lab research to canoeing on the Susquehanna River and getting acquainted with the area.

“We want to keep them interested in science,” said Associate Professor of Biology Tom Peeler, who will be the group’s academic adviser and teach their first-year Perspectives course. “Only a certain percentage of science students actually graduate with degrees in that field, and that’s something we’re trying to change. This week, we wanted to show the students what actual scientific research looks like so they have something to look forward to down the road.”

Alexandria “Sasha” Scharadin of Harrisburg, Pa., said she’s excited about using all the new equipment in the science building. "Where I'm from, we haven't done labs. We'd just work with microscopes or virtual labs."

Over the next four years, the STEM-BIOS students will take courses together, and have opportunities to perform research and internships with faculty. Career aspirations cited this week include forensic biology, veterinary medicine and neuroscience.

Now that Ayanna Besson of Rockville Centre, N.Y., is familiar with the faculty, other STEM-BIOS members and the biology program, she knows more about Susquehanna’s expectations for science majors. She also likes the idea of having a shoulder to lean on, should she need any help in her classes. “This program emphasizes responsibility, not just for [the individual] but for the entire group,” she said.


Karen M. Jones

S-STEM Students Researching on Campus

Watch a slideshow of the first participants in Susquehanna University’s Broadening Intensive Opportunities for Scholarship program.

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