loading page

Empowering youth currently underrepresented in STEM through authentic science research on local environmental challenges
  • +7
  • Margie Turrin,
  • Robert Newton,
  • Cassie Xu,
  • Karin Block,
  • Carrie Roble,
  • Rhea Esposito,
  • Alan Berkowitz,
  • Janice McDonnell,
  • Regina Alvarez,
  • Steven Burns
Margie Turrin
LDEO of Columbia University

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

Author Profile
Robert Newton
Lamont -Doherty Earth Observatory
Author Profile
Cassie Xu
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University
Author Profile
Karin Block
City College of New York
Author Profile
Carrie Roble
Hudson River Park
Author Profile
Rhea Esposito
Cary Insitute of Ecosystem Studies
Author Profile
Alan Berkowitz
Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies
Author Profile
Janice McDonnell
Rutgers University New Brunswick
Author Profile
Regina Alvarez
Dominican College
Author Profile
Steven Burns
St. Thomas Aquinas College
Author Profile


For youth with limited role models in the STEM fields, and restricted summer research opportunities resulting from a lack of financial resources and academic connections, the opportunity to participate in academically connected, community based science research programs can be incredibly empowering. Providing these opportunities is critically important but it takes purposeful work, persistent outreach and strong community networks. We note that while providing these opportunities is incredibly rewarding, but there is a lot of work both up front and ongoing. This work is itself rewarding when networks are humming and enthusiasm for involvement is high, but it can be challenging when ceilings are hit and walls seem to arise unexpectedly. “Early Engagement in Research: Broadening participation through engagement in authentic science research” builds a regional network of summer research experiences for high school students underrepresented in STEM, starting from a successful model that has provided high school summer field research opportunities for New York City youth for over a decade (Secondary School Field Research Program). The program is developed around regional partnerships between various combinations of academic institutions and research centers, community environmental and education centers, state cooperative extensions, high schools and school networks, state and local park systems and land management groups. Each location has a unique approach, but all include some similar attributes. Each tackles an authentic science research issue that affects the local community such as microbiology in the local streams and microplastics in the local bays and biology, and each includes peer and near peer mentoring for the students along with a scientist mentor. Encouraging professional development of each student is central to the program. Technical instruction includes the use of scientific instruments and equipment, data recording and interpretation. Professional discussions include how to successfully read and dissect a science journal article, how to create and present a science poster and most importantly how build a network for themselves in STEM, and how to help us work with them to support the diversity that is needed for all of science to be inclusive and ultimately meet the needs of our future.