Science Bound representatives met with KHOI, 89.1 Community Radio here in Ames, Iowa earlier this week.
Interviewed by KHOI host, Gale Seiler, welcomed Science Bound Director Connie Hargrave and Science Bound alumnus Javier Tello and discussed experiences and the importance of Science Bound as a part of a larger conversation, revolving around recent efforts to foster conversations around race relations in Ames.
Listen to the interview — It begins around the 35-minute mark.
AMES, Iowa – As much as Becky Gomez loved math and science as a kid, she never really connected her favorite subjects with what she might want to do when she grew up. Even when her mom encouraged her to join Science Bound, Becky says she initially thought it was just something fun to do after school.
Now the senior in industrial engineering recognizes how the Iowa State University program, which has empowered Iowa students of color to pursue degrees and careers in STEM fields for the past 25 years, helped fuel her passion into a future career. It all started with her eighth grade science fair project – a Science Bound requirement – and continued in high school with the opportunity to explore different STEM careers.
“I found that I really loved the hands-on approach to science,” Becky said. “That got me interested in problem solving and finding a way to fix the world’s problems and helping other people.”
Through the American Chemical Society’s Project SEED, Science Bound participants and Lincoln High School students Abi Contreras, Fatima Jalloh and Luis Martinez worked in Iowa State University (ISU) laboratories for eight weeks this summer. The teenagers learned what it is like to be a chemist while also gaining experiences they say will help them excel in their upcoming classes.
“It’s a lot different than science courses you might take in high school,” said Martinez, who participated in the program for a second consecutive summer. “Those labs and experiments are designed to almost always work. Here, a lot of times you might fail, but you’ll realize that if you change one or two things, you might get a better yield or get a reaction to work.”
The Lincoln High School students were guided by ISU Chemistry professors Javier Vela, Emily Smith and Malika Jeffries-El.
The students worked on projects with a wide range of applications including the creation of solar cells and increasing the speed of data storage in electronics.
“These types of experiences, which provide students with opportunities to work on research with real-world implications, are critical to ensuring that today’s youth understand the role they can play in STEM,” said Science Bound Director Connie Hargrave.
In addition, the Science Bound students gain the added benefit of bringing their experiences from Project SEED to their high school courses. This is what Martinez found after working in an ISU lab last summer.
“This program really helped me in my AP Chemistry class,” said Martinez. “A lot of the students have problems with lab write-ups, but that was a breeze because I was already used to it.”
These are the kinds of benefits Science Bound wants their students to receive from summer programs.
“We’re excited to know these opportunities are helping students now,” said Hargrave, “but we are also confident they will help them develop into tomorrow’s STEM leaders.”
When Science Bound alum Jessica Maciel-Hernandez began participating in summer research as a Lincoln High School freshman, she wasn’t thinking too much about her career. She was far more concerned with the prospect of camping for three weeks as part of the fieldwork.
“The first time I participated in the summer research was also the first time I ever went camping,” said Maciel-Hernandez, who’s now a senior at Iowa State University. “I’m a city person, so it was definitely a learning experience in many ways. I didn’t know if I would like it or not, but I told myself that I would do it for the whole time no matter what.”
Maciel-Hernandez’s willingness to try new experiences paid off. After continuing to work with the same research group through college, Maciel-Hernandez earned recognitions as a co-author of a research paper. The research she worked on indicates that among painted turtles – a species whose gender is influenced by nesting temperature – the mothers choose nesting sites partially based on gender selection.
The summer research program MacielHernandez took part in is called Turtle Camp Research and Education in Ecology (TREE). ISU professor Fredric Janzen runs this ecological research program, which tries to immerse high school and undergraduate students from groups that are traditionally underrepresented in the field. Janzen and his graduate student Timothy Mitchell were the other researchers included as authors on the published paper with Maciel-Hernandez.
Before participating in TREE, Maciel-Hernandez wasn’t sure about where she wanted to go with her career. Both TREE and her other work with Janzen’s group helped spur her interest in research, and she’s now hoping to find a research-related job after graduating.
Angela Mickens, surgical nurse at Iowa Methodist Medical Center, and parent of four children, encouraged her youngest child, Xarius Mickens (Roosevelt) to participate in the Science Bound program when he was invited as a 7th grader at Moulton Extended Learning Center.
“He always showed an interest and intellect in science and math. I knew this program could groom and support him in his academic endeavors,” said Mickens.
Mickens wanted Xarius to participate in Science Bound because it would give him the opportunity to explore his options in science and math.
Xarius has had many positive experiences in Science Bound, according to Mickens. One of the summer programs that benefited Xarius was “Learn and Earn”. Mickens said “the program gave him a format of what society expects: positive work ethics and earning what you deserve.”
Mickens believes the Science Bound program helped her son become more comfortable socially as well. “I have seen Xarius become more engaged with the world around him since participating with the program,” said Mickens. Science Bound has also helped Xarius learn and develop skills that will benefit him in his career.
“One skill I hope that Xarius will gain from participating in the program is proper presentation of self, in which the world can see what he can contribute as a human being,” said Mickens.
Additionally, she shared that the opportunity that Science Bound offers provides students with academic and personal support, which includes access to financial resources and professional references. “The men being present to teach my young man has had the most profound effect of all,” added Mickens.
“Xarius will be attending Iowa State University in the fall of 2016 and will major in chemical engineering,” said his proud mother. “I see him accomplishing his degree in chemical engineering and working for a pharmacological company of his choice.”
Science Bound celebrated a recordbreaking year with 59 high school seniors graduating from the pre-
college programs in three school districts (Des Moines 36, Denison 12, Marshalltown 11) and 12 Iowa State University (ISU) graduates. In Des Moines, the 2016 Honors Banquet took place at DuPont Pioneer’s Carver Center in Johnston, Iowa on April 21. More than 180 guests attended the banquet, including 36 high school and 9 Iowa State University seniors, to celebrate and to hear the President of DuPont Pioneer, Paul E. Schickler, who delivered the keynote address.
According to Dr. Connie Hargrave, Science Bound director, the banquet is, “more than a celebration, it’s a formal public acknowledgement of the accomplishments of these seniors. It’s a visual confirmation of the ability of each of our students to excel in college and their career.”
Schickler emphasized to the students the role of passion in their futures. “Knowledge and passion combined can create a positive impact that makes the world a better place,” said Schickler. “Passion, energy, and commitment, will help you be a part of the solutions that we need today.”
“It’s both an honor and a big deal that DuPont Pioneer President Paul Schickler is recognizing the importance and the significance of our Science Bound students,” said Dr. Hargrave.
Student speaker Bryan Marroquin Martinez (Roosevelt, Callanan) is just one of those significant students. Marroquin Martinez, who received his bachelor’s degree in construction engineering from ISU in May, shared that although his start was a bumpy one, participating in Science Bound made his time in college rewarding.
“When I joined Science Bound I was a 14-year-old with hopes of college but little direction and support for getting me there. Now I am a young man, who on July 5, 2016, will start a new job as a control engineer with the Baker Group in Des Moines.” said Marroquin Martinez.
During the evening Science Bound also recognized the students who went the extra mile, during their high school career by seeking out opportunities and making positive things happen. Two Science Bound graduates, Madeline Edmonds (East) and Adbisalan Omar (Roosevelt) share the Student of the Year award for 2016.
“These students understand that this is their time – their time to learn, grow, and develop themselves and they have consistently made the most of the Science Bound opportunity,” said Dr. Hargrave.
For 25 years Science Bound has been empowering students of color to excel in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers. In 2000, Charles E. Stewart, Jr. (Meredith, North) became the first Science Bound graduate to earn a Bachelor of Science degree from Iowa State University. After receiving his agricultural biochemistry degree, Stewart went on to earn his Ph.D. in plant biology at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Now, Stewart is an associate scientist, researcher and facility manager for the Macromolecular X-ray Crystallography facility at ISU.
Throughout school Stewart had a desire to be involved in research and development. His most exciting moments in Science Bound were participating in hands-on science projects, going to weekly meetings and learning about STEM professions. He added that the meetings helped him stay focused on his academics.
“I like learning, I believe that life-long learning is an indispensable tool for everything … I just thought it was a way of opening my eyes to this whole world of opportunities that are out there,” said Stewart.
Stewart urges all students to advantage of any and all opportunities to be active and hands on with science, math and research. He believes that college is developing mind and person, and that some of that development is achieved outside of the classroom.
“There are a lot of things that you will learn by DOING science, math or research. You’re not going to learn everything from a textbook. …Experience will help you decide if you really want to go to graduate school,” said Stewart.
During development, Stewart stresses the importance of embracing curiosity and the world around them.
“Science Bound helped me develop a sense of curiosity, which fueled my passion for learning, which ultimately built a solid, well-rounded foundation in science,” Stewart said. “Work on developing and exploring curiosity about nature and the world around you. Learn to ask questions if you don’t know or don’t understand something. Be confident that you can learn anything that you set your mind to.”
“There are whole worlds of options for those in STEM-related careers,” said Stewart. “I would urge students to embrace the challenges and know that there are people here at ISU (students, staff and faculty) who want to help you succeed.”