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Bridges to Baccalaureate program sparks faculty
July 11, 2011Tweet
Christopher Bishop, associate professor of psychology, expects to bring his fourth SUNY Upstate Bridges to the Baccalaureate student into his research group this fall – which is exactly what the five-week summer research program hopes will happen.
“I like to give that open offer and have had great success with students from this program who transition into a four-year program,” Bishop said.
Bishop is one of several Binghamton University faculty who have mentored 17 underrepresented students from community colleges during a five-week, hands-on research program this summer. Established to increase the number of underrepresented minority students pursuing and earning baccalaureate degrees in the biomedical sciences, the program guarantees admission to Binghamton University to participating students if they have maintained a 2.7 grade point average in science courses and overall at their home community colleges.
In addition to mentoring and the research experience, students in the Bridges program receive tutoring and financial support. This year’s Bridges students came to Binghamton from Westchester, Monroe and Onondaga community colleges.
But, after launching a successful idea last year, there’s a new twist to Binghamton’s Bridges program: hands-on workshops for the faculty from the participating community colleges. This year faculty from the partner community colleges learned about:
• the neurobiological basis of taste from Pat Di Lorenzo, professor of psychology, by exploring what chemicals can evoke taste sensations and how neurons in our brains encode information about these chemicals
• testing novel pharmacotherapeutics for Parkinson’s disease from Bishop by discussing preclinical models used to test novel drug targets and employing a rating scale to assess drug efficacy
• cell cycle analysis by flow cytometry from Dennis McGee, professor of biological sciences, by learning about staining cells for DNA content and collection of cell cycle data
Tom Keenan, who teaches anatomy and physiology at Onondaga Community College, was an enthusiastic workshop participant. “The neurological component is something we teach,” he said. “This refreshes the basics we’ve learned and we’re learning new things. It makes your mind work again.”
His colleague, Barbara Wells, agreed, adding that the workshops brought in the principles of biological research. “If we’re here, actually on campus, we can understand more about what the students are living,” she said.
“These workshops create a nice common ground,” said Bishop, “and the faculty are better able to bridge their students to a four-year college if they’ve had that experience as well.”
Paul Wakem, a microbiology teacher from Monroe Community College, has been with the Bridges program for 10 years and coordinates it for MCC. “We really push this program with our students,” he said. “We know the benefits of research, and they’re better students when they come back to us from here.”
“The hands-on sessions are one piece of the program,” said Anna Tan-Wilson, distinguished professor of biological sciences and Bridges program director. “It was the community college faculty members’ idea. Before, the workshops were all the typical educational workshops, sitting in a classroom and listening to everyone share new ideas of how to teach students. I’ve been trying to make it more of a ‘we’re all in this together so let’s brainstorm and think of ways by which the community college faculty can take advantage of a partnership with a research university’ and our faculty have been wonderful about agreeing to do this.”
Binghamton has participated in the Bridges program since 1999, and 78 percent of participants have transferred to a four-year school to continue their studies in the sciences.