Brookhaven Lab joins the Rising STEM Scholars program

Newswise – For the past several years, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory has provided resources for students, especially those from underrepresented demographics and underserved communities, to chart clear paths and defined towards careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). To give students the resources and momentum to embark on a deeper exploration of their interests throughout high school, Brookhaven Lab’s Office of Educational Programs (OEP) has begun hosting the funded Rising STEM Scholars Program. by the DOE Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists (WDTS). program.

Bridging the gap

Rising STEM Scholars follows the STEM-Prep Summer Institute, a four-week program that introduces high school freshmen from traditionally underrepresented and underserved communities to STEM fields. The new program bridges the gap between the more exploratory STEM-Prep summer institute, where different scientific fields are presented in week-long modules to all participants, and the more practical High School Research Program (HSRP)which gives students an authentic research experience and exposure to how science is approached in national laboratories.

“STEM-Prep participants are invited to participate in the Rising STEM Scholars program the following summer, and upon successful completion of the program, they are automatically accepted into the HSRP,” explained Aleida Perez, Supervisor of Student Research and citizen science within the OEP. “This year, there were seven students in the HSRP from last year’s Rising STEM Scholars program, and we hope to see that number continue to grow in the years to come. We also hope these programs will lead them to apply for Department of Energy college internships, which include the Undergraduate Science Laboratory Internship (SULI) and Internship at a community college (CCI) programs.”

The Rising STEM Scholars program is a great opportunity for these students to develop scientific computing skills, learn about the people and culture of the lab, and explore scientific interests before committing to the HSRP and SULI programs more intensives that follow.

Build a foundation

“The Rising STEM Scholars program brought us to the lab,” recalled Maxwell Cabrera, former Rising STEM scholar and HSRP student in engineering learning at the Collider Accelerator Department (C-AD). “We each received a Raspberry Pi computer with a sensor kit to work with on an experiment. It gave me something interesting to do, especially during the pandemic. I would go out to collect leaves as samples and learn to code to operate the sensors. I learned how to conduct research, collect data, and present our findings, which helped me prepare for the HSRP. I really enjoyed being part of both programs.

Rising STEM Scholars get a feel for what it’s like to work in a STEM field in a lab by engaging in hands-on computer science projects and gaining an in-depth introduction to a particular lab setup and the research that takes place there. Last year, for example, students got a glimpse of the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II). Along the way, students have the opportunity to meet staff and learn about their work through lectures and panel discussions, as well as connect with HSRP students and SULI interns. The Rising STEM Scholars program makes it easier for students to integrate into the more independent setting of HSRP and allows them to maintain their connection to the lab as they consider their future.

“There’s a lot of education that goes between choosing a STEM career and then committing to it. It’s good to have a window into what that career might look like before committing. down this road,” said Dan Olds, PDF Beamline scientist at NSLS-II and mentor.

“I got a very deep insight into how scientists operate in their day-to-day work and learned a lot of practical skills that I can use in the future, especially when it comes to coding, which is part integral to so many of the areas that interest me,” said Donal Akerele, a former Rising STEM fellow and HSRP student studying accelerator physics in C-AD. “My mentor, Sergei Seletskiy, gave me and to my research partner, a lot of autonomy with our programs. He gave us a general basis to start with and showed us how everything worked, even gave us a basic model to build from. I collaborated on a program for the profile monitor, which is used to measure different aspects of the beam, such as length, intensity, and particle count.

While seeing what researchers are working on is an integral part of these programs, seeing how they work is just as important, if not more so. Learning to rely on your team, finding and using the right resources, and formulating the right questions are all important skills that can be overlooked in strictly science-based courses. These high school programs also give students insight into operations research facilities and the routines of the people who work there.

“You’re on your own when you’re studying science, but real science work is very collaborative,” Olds explained. “We have colleagues to go to and places to look for answers. Working with other people is the key to success.

“We first looked at the big picture, then we dive into the details,” said Shadia Suha, an HSRP student and former Rising STEM fellow who is learning about artificial intelligence and machine learning. “There were questions we couldn’t tackle on our own, even though we were nurtured every step of the way, but we could find the answers by asking the right questions and leaning on mentors – and even mentors. fellow students – to point us in the right direction.”

“The few weeks that these high school programs run are enough time to expose students to the work you do and let them know how they can get involved in the future,” said Russel Feder, chief mechanical engineer. for CA-D’s sPHENIX detector and mentor. . “While SULI students have time to dig into more in-depth projects, like designing new parts for our piping system, HSRP students lay the groundwork for work like this. Max, for example, is learning to use computer-aided design programs, which are crucial in engineering. As a student, he has access to all the features of the program, so he does structural analysis of the beams and the forces applied to them, he can really dig into the details.

Lasting impressions

The advantages of mentoring go both ways. Students can get a taste of what a STEM career is like, and mentors can break their routine and do something fulfilling.

“I have benefited from having great mentors who have had a significant impact on me and brought me to where I am today,” said Carlos Soto, associate computer science researcher at the Computational Science Initiative (CSI) and mentor. “It was very rewarding to transition into this role. It’s fun to feel the excitement again. A lot of us have found a rhythm at work, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s good to step back and look at things from the new perspective of someone who is having these experiences for the first time.I encourage anyone interested in mentorship to join in on this excitement.

“It’s satisfying to see where students go after they graduate, to see them come back for advice on what to do and where to go next. It’s more satisfying than seeing them finish a technical project at the end of the program here,” Feder said. “As a public institution, giving back to our community feels good. You can date a young person and help make the field more inclusive.

Even if students do not pursue the field they have explored, this program gives them a perspective that can guide them into a STEM field they are passionate about, builds confidence in their abilities, and influences their choice of academic courses. This opens doors to more intensive mentorship and internship opportunities in the lab and shows them that it is a place where they can succeed, be represented and know they belong.

“At the secondary level, students have many opportunities open to them, and many feel anxiety about having to make decisions about their future. I think it’s important that we shape these types of programs in a way that students don’t feel boxed in, but rather feel like it’s an opportunity to explore concepts and ideas to find their own way through their own interests,” Way said.

There are plans to expand the Rising STEM Scholars program both in scale and scope with new support from the DOE WDTS office. It began as a local program recruiting students from schools within the radius of the lab, however, there are plans to expand it statewide in the short term and make it a national program in the longer term. In developing this program, Brookhaven Lab aims to partner with initiatives such as the Louis Stokes Minority Engagement Alliances (LSAMPs) to ensure that these opportunities are presented fairly. The program also hopes to resume more in-person visits, conferences, collaborations and hands-on projects.

“We want these students to dig their own rabbit holes and then go down them,” Olds said. “Even if they’re short on time before a project is finished, they’ve sparked that interest, they have that vision, the project has become theirs. It’s a success for me.

Brookhaven National Laboratory is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. The Office of Science is the largest supporter of basic physical science research in the United States and works to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

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Ryan H. Bowman