33 students enjoy FirstSTEP Summer Immersion progr...

33 students enjoy FirstSTEP Summer Immersion program

MTSU professor Scott Handy, left, observes Brittany Taylor’s work in the chemistry lab as part of the FirstSTEP Summer Immersion program. (photos submitted)

Thirty-three rising MTSU sophomores and juniors have concluded a three-week journey to increase their science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills in the FirstSTEP Summer Immersion program.

Assisted by graduate students, MTSU physics and astronomy professors Bill Robertson and Daniel Erenso, chemistry professors B.G. Ooi and Scott Handy, engineering technology professor Ahad Nasab and biology professor Jeff Leblond guided their teams through an intense three-week session, which ended June 1 with a closing ceremony in the Cason-Kennedy Nursing Building.

“The purpose of the program is to give students some depth in one area of science,” said Dr. Tom Cheatham, dean of the College of Basic and Applied Sciences.

“Some research shows it helps students in all the sciences. We’re hoping that’s the case with our students, that this experience helps them in all their science classes.”

The MTSU students primarily are from middle and west Tennessee. One student is from east Tennessee.

FirstStep is a five-year, $2 million grant program funded by the National Science Foundation. It provides financial and academic support for students majoring in biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering technology, geosciences, mathematics, and physics and astronomy.

FirstSTEP participant Josiah Opeke of Nashville, a graduate of Nashville Big Picture High School, takes a reading in the chemistry lab.

Math faculty Drs. Ginger Rowell and Chris Stephens serve as co-principal investigators, and Brad Rudnik is FirstSTEP coordinator.

Rowell is FirstSTEP director and is responsible for the grant and all efforts to increase STEM retention. Stephens, who is responsible for the daily operations of the summer-immersion program, visits the different teams across campus.

Team Erenso members include Elaura Aguilar of Spring Hill, Brooke Flanagan of Burlison, La Tonya Johnson of Memphis and Chelsey Pennycuff, David Scott and Gabriel Welker of Murfreesboro.

Team Robertson members include Derrick Bowker of Nashville, Tina Coleman of Millington, Jessica Graves of Brentwood, Sarah Reisinger of Huntingdon, Devin Wakefield of Covington and Darryus Yokley of La Vergne.

Team Nasab members include Jocelyn Bronner of Memphis, Chiquita Long of Chattanooga, Pedro Raudry of Sardis, Cali Stoltz of Lewisburg and Tyler Todd of Murfreesboro.

Team Lablond members include Adam Glass of Murfreesboro; Yvonne Ejorh, Jadeah Jackson and Adanna Omatu of Antioch; TaRisha Lake of Bolivar; and Ethan Womack of Woodbury.

Team Handy members include Allison Hix of Shelbyville, Josiah Opeke of Nashville, Kayla Ray of Cordova, Nick Reszka of Murfreesboro and Brittany Taylor of Memphis.

Team Ooi members include Markeno Lester of Arlington, Angel Navarro and Haley Williams of Murfreesboro, Tenika Prather of Selmer and Breanna Price of Cordova.

— Randy Weiler (