STEM Grant Offers Opportunities

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STEM Grant Offers Opportunities

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The Title V Stem Grant awarded to Mercy College has funded many new programs and projects that have provided benefits to students. The federal grant works to support science, technology, engineering and mathematics majors.

“Our future competitiveness is directly dependent on our ability to educate and train promising young people in innovative fields like science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and public-private partnerships like Mercy College’s ‘Step Up to STEM’ are critical to that effort,” said Nita Lowey, US Congress

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The major features created by the grant are the STEM peer mentor program, the STEM summer enrichment program, and a multifunction lab in the Manhattan campus. The grant also provides academic support and additional career services. From the STEM website “Mercy College’s  “Step up to STEM” initiative works in coordination with the City University of New York’s (CUNY) Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) and IBM Corp. to support Hispanic and low-income students attaining degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.”

“We are honored to be awarded funding from the United States Department of Education’s Title V STEM and Articulation programs,” said former Mercy College President Dr. Kimberly Cline in the press release. “As a Hispanic-Serving Institution with many first-generation college students, Mercy College is well-positioned to provide a high quality, affordable education to academically talented students interested in exciting careers in science, technology and math.”

The STEM Peer Mentor program provides students with a mentor, an upperclassmen studying one of the STEM fields. The STEM Peer Mentor program caters to transfer students and freshmen but any class level is welcomed. The program aims to assist new students mesh with the college community and work with them to introduce and provide academic resources. Peer Mentors are required to keep their GPA above 3.0, attend training sessions and contact their mentees regularly. The mentees are paired up to mentors on factors such as their majors and their main campuses.

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Alejandro a mentor and a graduate student studying education, says “Being a mentor is great; you get to meet new people and help out other students.”

The 2013 Summer Enrichment program focused this year’s theme on using “STEM to predict, prevent and manage disaster” and featured several educational workshops that were featured on ABC News. Students learned how to prepare for disasters such as “severe weather, cyber-attacks, terrorism and diseases.”  In one of the demonstrations students were able to experiment with a psycho-physiological monitoring system that uses electrodes and computer technology to measure their stress levels by reading the heart rate and skin indicators such as sweat. The system is minimally invasive and painless. During the Biopac demonstration students were lectured about stress, trauma, depression and anxiety from both a physiological and a psychological view.

The demonstration was performed by Mercy College professor Alberto Manzi with assistance from Professor Masha Komolova from BMCC.

Prof. Alberto Manzi

Prof. Alberto Manzi

Manzi said, “The Biopac is a physiological monitoring system that monitors heart rate and breathing in relation to stress and relaxation.” He continued to say “Although the system is helpful, it is not necessarily a clinical tool but rather more common for use with psychotherapists and is useful to control and manage stress allowing the therapist to see what techniques are effective.”

Students hooked themselves up to the technology and were asked to think about stressful situations and watch the monitors to see the effects that would have, after they were told to relax and the lights were shut off, the drop off in heart and breathing rate  noticeably changed.  The demonstration successfully showed students the correlation between psychological and physiological processes.

Prof. Manzi and Dr. Komolova

Prof. Manzi and Dr. Komolova

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“It gives the students a hands on experience with new technology,” said Komolova.  Mercy College freshmen Khandra-Simone Wilson an OT major said, “The whole experience was really fun, it was an interesting and educational experience and I really enjoyed the interactive part of it.”

Dilara Beisknova a BMCC student studying business administration said, “I really liked the demonstration. It was really cool learning how to interact with our bodies, and how stress effects us on the inside.”

Carolina Hernandez, the Title V STEM Project Coordinator said “The Summer Enrichment program will continue summer of ’14 and will be free to students. The students are also given certificates of participation following completion of the program, we encourage STEM students to sign up and find out more about STEM and all the new opportunities we have to offer.”

The Biopac demonstration took place in the brand new lab installed in the Manhattan campus. The new lab is stocked with new technology and lab materials. The room is features hexagonal desks which allow for utilizing space and allows for a more comfortable arrangement between large groups of students. Students will be excited to learn that the room has brand new chairs and they will no longer have to rush to find the best chair in the room. The room is outfitted with the latest educational technology such as new Mac computers, projection systems and a Smartboard. There are two computers on every lab table which have beautiful and crisp displays that allow for easy computer use during experimentation. The lab also offers safety precautions such as fire extinguishers and two eyewash stations.

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“I like the lab space. It feels clean and spacious without being too big and intimidating. It also blends in well with the rest of the campus and doesn’t look like it doesn’t belong here. Kind of like it has always been here,”  said Wilson

“The old space was actually used for acupuncture which hasn’t been taught at Mercy College for a long time. I’m excited the lab is completed and we can finally make better use of this space and also gives us the opportunity to offer even more to our students,” said Hernandez.

Mercy College was also recently awarded another grant to expand the STEM program from the National Science Foundation. “The grant will be used to establish the Mercy College Intensive STEM Teacher Initiative (MISTI), which will primarily fund educational costs for students to pursue careers in teaching STEM at the middle school and high school levels.”
Mercy College Interim President, Dr. Concetta M. Stewart, says, “This is a wonderful achievement for Mercy College. It demonstrates the value of collaboration, and how collaboration can be used to advance education. As a society we need to focus on training new STEM teachers. Educators need to make sure that we are fostering these subjects and giving them the respect that they long deserved.”