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MCCC Science Students and Faculty Participate in STEM Summit

5/4/17


Students and faculty at the STEM C2 Research Summit, from left, students Shila Basu and Talys Drumond, Professor Jingrong Huang (Physics), Professor Helen Tanzini (Chemistry), students Christina Konstantis and Sam Zdanowicz, Professor Diane Hilker (Chemistry) and student Maxwell Hazzone. (Not pictured: Amogh Chitnis.)

West Windsor, N.J. -- The 2017 STEM C2 Research Summit was a meeting of the minds – the most promising minds from two- and four-year colleges in New Jersey who are preparing for careers in the high-demand fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. 

Mercer County Community College (MCCC) was well-represented among the students and faculty who attended the full day of workshops and presentations hosted by Bergen County College April 21. The summit drew participation from colleges and science institutions from around the tri-state area.

According to P.J. Ricattos, Bergen's Dean of Mathematics, Science and Technoloy, the event was designed to “empower teachers, inspire students and advance the studies of the four STEM disciplines." Unique to the summit was its emphasis on the exchange of research and innovation between two- and four-year colleges and the building of a pipeline for STEM college students that leads to career success.

MCCC students Sam Zdanowicz and Christina Konstantis, who conducted research at Medical Diagnostics Laboratory (MDL) during Winter Session under the guidance of research scientists, presented a workshop on their project. Entitled "Gene Sequencing, Cloning and Assay Development for Cancer Screening," their research focused on sequencing and cloning genes associated with breast, ovarian and colorectal cancer for use in the development of molecular assays for cancer detection. MCCC Professors Diane Hilker and Helen Tanzini (Chemistry) served as advisors for this Honors level work.

According to Zdanowicz and Konstantis, approximately 20 people attended their session, which went very well. "It was a wonderful experience. Those who attended were engaged and understood our project," Zdanowicz said. He emphasized the benefits of the internship experience at MDL. "It opened our eyes to the world of research and showed us the focus and stamina required of researchers. The scientists there informed us of technologies used in cancer diagnostics and genetic testing that we did not even know were possible."

Four Physics students participated in poster presentations. Shila Basu, Talys Drumond, Maxwell Hazzone and Amogh Chitnis,presented posters in the Physical Sciences entitled "Computer Simulation of Energy Cost for Fresh Indoor Air During Winter in New Jersey."

According to Professor of Physics Jingrong Huang, all four were presenting undergraduate research posters for the first time. "A total of eight students from my University Physics III class collaborated on this project. They picked the topic and then carried out the work," she said.

Taking a step back from the academic side, Professor Huang offered a workshop on "Time Management for Success and Happiness," giving students some general strategies for managing their time and finding balance in their lives. "The objective was to give them some tips on avoiding stress and burnout as they pursue their goals," Huang said.

The students agreed that attending the conference was enlightening on multiple levels, especially the opportunity to see what sutdents at other schools were working on. Noted Zdanowicz, "We learned about a project carried out by a group of students from NJIT. They worked with an anesthesiologist from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. These biomedical engineers developed a tool to measure brain pulse during open brain surgery. An ingenious project like this inspired us," Zdanowicz said. 

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