Visiting MIT's Spectrometry Lab, launching hot-air balloons
with middle school students, checking out UMass Lowell's
Robotics Lab, and exploring the physics of the flying trapeze.
These are just a few of the activities enjoyed by members of
the STEM Club.
All students with an interest in science, technology,
engineering and math are encouraged to join the STEM
Club, according to faculty co-advisors Margaret Bleichman,
Professor of Computer Science, and Mathematics
Professor Maria Arambel.
Started in 2007, the STEM Club meets weekly, alternately
on the Bedford and Lowell campuses, and explores a wide
variety of topics. "The nice thing about the club is that,
basically, we have a new crop of students participating
every year," said Bleichman. "It's totally student driven:
They run the club and decide what they want to do."
Club activities can be as simple as seeing what happens
when a Mentos candy is dropped into a bottle of Coca Cola
(hint: stand back!), to organizing a collegewide panel discussion
about Japan's recent nuclear power plant disaster. The STEM
Club also organizes or participates in two community-service
projects each year.
"Every one of these STEM Club activities not only educates,
but helps build teamworking skills and promotes organizational
development among members," explained Bleichman. The
club also simply provides a supportive group environment.
"This is a place where students can feel comfortable and
confident in talking about science," stressed Arambel.
"At our meetings, it's OK to be excited about STEM!"
STEM Club activities include visiting research labs and studying
the physics of swinging on a trapeze.
For students looking to begin careers in
STEM fields, having the right combination
of education and experience is a must.
No one knows this better than MCC
alumna Maria Fran Palacios (Class of
2012). "When you're looking for a job,
everyone is your competition," said
Palacios. "One of the most important
things on your resume is your experience,
so you better have some."
The Health & STEM Pathways Center
helped Palacios prepare for and gain
much needed experience and even
helped change the direction
of her career.
In 2010, Palacios moved from Chile to
Lowell to pursue her dream of becoming
a robotics engineer. She enrolled at
Middlesex as an Engineering Science
Transfer student. The following summer,
Palacios enrolled in the Health & STEM
Summer Bridge program where she
learned about the Pathways Center.
After working as an intern at the
VA Medical Center in Bedford and
as a teaching assistant for an MCC
physics class -- both positions she
received through working with the
Pathways Center -- Palacios learned
about an available Research Experience
for Undergraduates (REU) placement --
working in plastics engineering at
"REUs are paid opportunities for STEM
students to do research work with area
employers and four-year institutions,"
said Audrey Frater, MCC's Academic
Coordinator for Health & STEM Path-
ways. "REUs are very competitive," Frater
added. "We help students develop their
applications and resumes, and
improve their interviewing skills so
they are prepared to do their best."
With help from the Pathways Center,
Palacios applied for and received the
REU at UML. While there, she
received her own project working to
develop organic solar cells. It was
during this experience that she
discovered her passion for working
in plastics engineering.
"I really enjoyed the work I was
doing," said Palacios. "In some types
of engineering, there are a lot of theory
courses to get through before you can
start working in a lab. In plastics, there's
an opportunity to get hands-on with the
work right away. I knew that's where I
wanted to be."
Research Experience for Undergraduates
Finding Career Opportunities Through the Pathways Center
STEM Club: Exploring the Fun in Science, Technology, Engineering & Math