20 students make their move with FirstSTEP

20 students make their move with FirstSTEP

Twenty MTSU rising sophomores participated in this year’s FirstSTEP Immersion program.

MTSU sophomores dive into their FirstSTEP Immersion research projects on campus. Gabriel Welker monitors results of his research project in the laser lab in Wiser-Patten Science Hall. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

Mainly working as teams and assisted by faculty and graduate and undergraduate students in five major concentrations, these FirstSTEP Immersion students received an intensive four-week focus in research during May and June.

“This is wonderful,” said Adanna Omatu, a native of Nigeria now living in Nashville. “I am getting experience in my field (biology). You also get to go out into the real world and gain hands-on experience.”

In addition to biology, which was supervised by Dr. Bruce Cahoon, other majors and supervisors included geosciences with Dr. Mark Abolins, engineering technology with Dr. Saeed Foroudastan, physics with Dr. Bill Robertson and chemistry with Dr. Sing Chong.

FirstSTEP participant Kayla Ray, left, and MTSU graduate student Katrina Smith observe as Taylor Paige adds ingredients to make gold nanoparticles in the Davis Science Building chemistry lab. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

“I’ve been surprised at how well they have done,” said Dr. Chris Stephens, the program’s director and an associate professor in mathematical sciences. “They learned as much in two weeks as you would in a freshman course. They’ve taken ownership, gotten engaged and worked well together. They’ve worked hard on these projects.”

Last year, MTSU received $1.1 million from the National Science Foundation to implement a program to improve success rates in the science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, disciplines.

Dr. Tom Cheatham, dean for the College of Basic and Applied Sciences, served as coordinator of the FirstSTEP program. Stephens oversaw this spring’s initial program.

— Randy Weiler, jweiler@