This month, I had the pleasure of attending Project SUPER’s 30th anniversary symposium at Rutgers’ Douglass Residential College alongside the founder of Itiah Angels for Learning, Marie Thadal. The project, formally known as Science for Undergraduates: A Program for Excellence in Research, lives up to its name: Project SUPER is usually a female undergraduate’s first exposure to scientific research. This is an extremely important program that runs nationwide. Rutgers’s WiSE (Women in Science and Engineering) programs held the first Project SUPER courses in 1993.
These young scientists in the making are eternally grateful for their experience, as they continue to develop to their potential. First, they took the Introduction to Scientific Research (ISR) course where they learned wet lab etiquette, how to keep an organized lab notebook, and the importance of teamwork, scientific integrity, and ethical research. During their semester, they were paired with a principal investigator or professor conducting research at Rutgers to help with an existing research project. At the end of the course, students were expected to continue with the project for 200 hours during the summer. The last days of the ISR course featured presentations of a lab in class, acting as practice for the symposium.
At the symposium, there were beakers holding red and white chrysanthemums projecting a subtle touch of Douglass pride. Students were celebrated for their hard work, dedication to research, and given the opportunity to present their science research posters summarizing their summer research project for curious viewers attending the event.
The science symposium was full of smiles, proud friends and family, and conversations about the importance of increasing female scientists. As someone who took the ISR course, I was very proud of seeing my peers in their business attire, confident about their scientific findings and professional futures. When we encourage and foster a community of women to pursue research, it has the potential to positively impact other facets of life. These Rutgers students are not only fulfilling their passions, but they are providing beneficial change to the world. I always advocate for women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) especially when they have the drive to always be teachable, ask questions, and give it their all.
Thadal, a graduate of Douglass and I both share immense gratitude for the program and related WiSE initiatives.We have come so far as women and we are not stopping anytime soon! I happily imagine that incoming students will see people who look like them and realize, “I can be a great scientist, too.”
Written by: Tiffany Williams