Finger Lakes Community College earns more federal support for science

Finger Lakes Community College will receive another $1.14 million from the National Science Foundation to support students learning about and pursuing careers in biotechnology.

The college previously received an NSF grant of $5.8 million for its role as home base for the Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative. FLCC was tasked with developing and sharing its approach to teaching science through research.

In this new grant announced this week, FLCC is a participant in a project led by Austin Community College in Texas to develop a national network of biotech education projects.

“This latest grant is a testament to FLCC’s role as a national leader in the expansion of research opportunities for undergraduate students,” said FLCC President Robert Nye.

FLCC Professor James Hewlett, a Webster resident, launched the undergrad research initiative more than a decade ago, aiming to change how science is taught at community colleges. Research rather than planned lab exercises has proven to be more engaging to students and encourages them to go into science careers, studies have shown.

Professors from Texas and California participate in teacher training exercise in research at Finger Lakes Community College. Photo supplied.
Professors from Texas and California participate in teacher training exercise in research at Finger Lakes Community College. Photo supplied.

“If we’re teaching students to become scientists, we need to let them be scientists right from the start,” Hewlett said.

Last semester student Abigail Giddings of Walworth extracted DNA of freshwater sponges gathered across the northeastern U.S. to contribute to a database showing where each species was found. Sponge distribution can be an indicator of climate change and pollution.

“It made everything I had already learned about biology come to life,” Giddings said. She plans to go to medical school, where research will be more common. “It’s definitely more challenging than a lecture course, but I learned so much more at a deeper level.”

When FLCC started its research initiative with four other schools in 2006, about 3 percent of students went on to earn a four-year degree in science. Six years later, the rate was 13 percent. The network of participating schools has now grown to 42 institutions.

“I do think the research experience does deliver on multiple levels,” Hewlett said. “Research is inherently full of moments of failure which gives plenty of opportunity to leverage those results into opportunities to think critically and solve problems — skills highly valued by employers.”

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UR wins major grant for quantum research

The University of Rochester will receive $1.55 million in funding from the National Science Foundation to support research in quantum computing.

U.S. senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand announced the award Thursday.

They said the funding will help researchers investigate ways to work with and stabilize quantum particles known as qubits and produce educational materials and classes on quantum computing for students in high school through graduate school.

“This federal investment will allow the University of Rochester—one of the world’s leading research universities and a hub of scientific innovation—to become even more of a leader in the burgeoning field of quantum computing that’s brimming with job-creating potential,” Schumer said.

Gillibrand added, “By studying how quantum particles work, this research could change the way we work with computers; and by ensuring that students have access to this research, the university is preparing the future of New York’s scientific workforce.

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RIT to help boost STEM for low-income students at many colleges

A $370,000 grant from the National Science Foundation will allow Rochester Institute of Technology to help other colleges compete for federal funding aimed at expanding STEM opportunities for bright, low-income students.

“It’s critical to our national interests that we do whatever we can to grow the pipeline of students for STEM careers, and in particular to increase opportunities for low-income and disadvantaged students,” said Paul Tymann, professor of computer science at RIT who is leading the project. Tymann, who has worked at RIT since 1997, was on loan to the NSF for three years and said that while working there, “we saw potential to grow programs with community colleges, but many do not have the support to write proposals that schools like RIT have.”

Under his direction, RIT will develop a workshop to help educators from other institutions learn about how to successfully apply for grant money from the NSF Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM) program. Tymann said he expects to put on two workshops attended by 20 educators each.

“RIT has had a long history of partnering with community colleges to enable students to transfer seamlessly into the university, and this federal investment will enable us to further strengthen and expand these relationships, while at the same time helping to grow the workforce talent that is critically needed for our nation’s future,” said Tymann. “Initially, we are planning to target schools in the northeast region on this project.”

RIT’s grant will help pay for transportation and lodging costs for faculty who visit RIT for workshops, and for experienced STEM educators to travel so they can mentor the college educators who are applying for federal grants.

Workshops will also focus on identifying ways low-income students need support in their STEM studies, and how colleges can improve retention and success of these students.

“STEM careers are the future of our workforce. It is critical that we ensure all students have access to educational opportunities in these exciting fields,” said Congressman Joe Morelle. “RIT is a global leader in STEM education and I am pleased that this funding will allow them to share their expertise and partner with community colleges to encourage and expand offerings within these disciplines.”

Tymann said RIT has worked with local institutions in developing transfer programs before, but this program will reach far outside the Rochester area. Besides managing this grant program, he is also director of the RIT’s Center for Computing Outreach, Research and Education (C-CORE).

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RIT receives $1.6 million for deaf education in technology fields

Rochester Institute of Technology has won a $1.6 million grant from the National Science Foundation to promote technical training for deaf students, including veterans whose injuries result in hearing loss.

The grant provides three years of support for DeafTEC, also known as the Technological Education Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students, as it transitions into a resource center.

“I’m so pleased that RIT has received this significant grant, which will help support their dedicated efforts to create a more diverse and accepting workforce,” said U.S. Rep. Joe Morelle, D-Irondequoit. “This will further cement RIT’s reputation as a global leader in providing   innovative services to help deaf and hard-of-hearing students reach their full potential.

DeafTEC is housed in RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf. Its aims include changing the underrepresentation of deaf and hard-of-hearing students in technical jobs.

“For the third time, the National Science Foundation has recognized NTID’s DeafTEC program and its commitment to diversifying the technical workforce by increasing the participation of deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals in STEM fields,” said NTID President Gerard Buckley. “NTID and our partners are uniquely suited to increase professional development opportunities in these fields, expand STEM-related online resources and curricula, and model inclusivity for other STEM efforts.”

NTID President Gerard Buckley
NTID President Gerard Buckley

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

The DeafTEC Resource Center will:

  • Work with teachers and employers to help deaf and hard-of-hearing students access technical employment training
  • Disseminate information online about education and training in technical careers for deaf and hard of hearing students
  • Provide expertise and mentoring in creating inclusive environments for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, including military vets with hearing loss.

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Companies needed for Cornell interns

Cornell University is looking for a few good internships to challenge its materials research students next summer.

The Cornell Center for Materials Research is aiming to partner with companies in the materials, chemistry, energy, pharmaceuticals, food and textile areas and is willing to pay for a portion of the student’s internship pay. Cornell will match 20 percent of the intern’s pay up to $1,000.

To qualify, a business needs to be located in New York state and provide a summer job on a predetermined project that offers a Cornell student real-world experience, such as solving technical challenges or developing and improving products with an eye toward increasing revenue. Small and mid-size companies are eligible.

This summer a Queens company, Awisco, which supplies industrial welding materials, had its intern working everywhere from the loading dock to shadowing the company’s CEO. An Ithaca company, Capro-X, hired a Cornell intern to help build and operate fermentation bioreactors as part of scaling up its use of fermentation to transform food and beverage processing wastes.

The Center’s director of industrial partnerships, Michèle van de Walle, said three students worked in such internships this year. She’s set a target of five in the summer of 2019.  Working with Entrepreneurship at Cornell, the center may have additional internship programs seeking help from companies, too.

The Center for Materials Research is supported by New York State and the National Science Foundation. It conducts interdisciplinary research into advanced materials and promotes knowledge transfer with industry.

Companies considering the program can gain more information by visiting the center’s website or contacting tvan de Walle at (607) 255 -8809 at [email protected].


Warner School wins $800,000 research grant

The University of Rochester has won an $800,000 grant that will be used to help study potential barriers preventing students with learning disabilities from going into science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

The grant from the National Science Foundation will fund work by a team headed by Samantha Daley, assistant professor in counseling and human development at UR’s Warner School of Education. The award was announced Tuesday, March 6, by U.S. Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport.

Daley said the grant will fund two focus areas. The first will look at attitudes of middle school and high school students with learning disabilities toward classes or careers in STEM fields. Students with learning disabilities, including issues such as dyslexia, constitute the largest group among students receiving special education services, Daley said.

The second focus of the study will try to identify classroom environments that are likely to support or encourage students with learning disabilities to go into further STEM study or careers.

With other groups that are underrepresented in STEM, Daley said, “differences in whether they stay in science are not just about academic performance, but they’re also about choices and motivation and whether they can see themselves being successful in science fields and careers.”

Previous study has suggested the barriers are complex.

“Usually we focus pretty exclusively on improving academic skills, which is important, but that’s not everything that shapes a students’ goals or academic careers and trajectory,” Daley said.

“Some of it is that we need to improve academic skills. A lot of students with learning disabilities in particular are below their peers in basic reading and math skills. Also, there are some signs that there are lower expectations that really shape what courses students with disabilities are enrolled in, and those really shape future outcomes,” Daley said.

The schools where the research will be carried out have not been finalized yet, but Daley said interested families and schools can contact her to be considered for participation in the study. She can be reached by emailing [email protected].

Daley said national statistics suggest 8 percent of people with all kinds of disabilities work in STEM fields, but 12 to 15 percent of the population have disabilities. Just 6 percent of people with disabilities hold doctorates in science or engineering, she said.

The grant will pay for research to be conducted over five years, starting May 1.

“I congratulate the University of Rochester on receiving this federal award,” Slaughter said in announcing the grant. “This funding will help ensure that students with learning disabilities get the support they need to enter into and ultimately succeed in careers in the growing STEM fields. I’m proud that our region is playing a leading role in training educators so all our students can fulfill their potential.”

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