FSC Encourages Local Students to Grow into STEM Careers

On Thursday, March 14, 2024, Farmingdale State College (FSC) hosted nearly 200 high school and middle school students from over a dozen local school districts at its annual Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Diversity Summit. 

Held in Nold Athletic Complex, the day-long event featured a variety of interactive and engaging STEM workshops in Lupton Hall, student project poster presentations, networking opportunities, and a keynote address from Dr. Saranna Belgrave-Banton, an assistant adjunct professor from Hunter College’s Department of Biological Sciences and a dedicated advocate for STEM career paths. 

“The primary mission of the STEM Diversity Summit is bringing you here and getting you excited about the idea of pursing STEM education, excited and committed to the idea of pursuing careers in STEM fields,” said Janice Rivera, executive director of FSC’s Department of Academic and Support Services and STEM Diversity Summit co-chair. “We also want you to see that any and every dream and goal you have is possible. We want you to understand that there are limitless possibilities out there for you. And our goal is to try and get you motivated to do them.” 

“We believe here at Farmingdale State College that talent is very widely distributed but sometimes opportunity is not. And we want to be sure as broad and representative a group of students as possible get exposure to the STEM fields,” said John S. Nader, PhD, president of FSC, the largest College of Technology in the State University of New York (SUNY) system. “If one student here today pursues a career in a STEM field, who otherwise would not have pursued, then this event is absolutely a success. We are here for you. I wish you a great day.” 

“We’re in a room full of individuals,” said Belgrave-Banton. “Each of you have your own personal perspectives, your interests, your expertise, and I like to call that a room full of diversity of thought.” 

Belgrave-Banton added that students should consider their own experiences, “those things that are roots of who you are as a person,” as part of their STEM journey.  

“Having these sorts of understandings of what your academics are, your training, and that specific lived experience you as an individual are bringing to STEM, these are some of the major impacts that you can have,” she said. 

FSC’s STEM Diversity Summit, which began in 2011, this year featured a variety of workshops including 3-D printing, DNA fingerprinting, drone programing, student research, lessons in microscopy and modeling with organoids, and career opportunity exploration. The workshops were hosted with participation from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Morrison Mentors Inc., and Stony Brook University.  

“My favorite aspect was when we could see the DNA tracks on the LED lights,” said a sixth-grade participant.  

“I loved interacting with all the professors and getting good feedback!” said an eleventh-grade participant.  

The event also showcased 35 student poster projects in an array of topics ranging from the effect of various mouthpieces on the trombone’s sound quality and tone, to solar powered hydroponics systems, to a pancreatic cancer screening tool based on urinary biomarkers. 

“As a female faculty member in STEM, I was captivated by the quality of the poster presentations and the number of female representations in the group,” said Dr. Bahar Zoghi, FSC assistant dean of the School of Engineering Technology and STEM Diversity Summit co-chair. “A group of 19 judges evaluated the presentations made by the students and were impressed by the high quality of the work presented.”  

“We are proud to celebrate the creative energy of dozens of local students today,” said President Nader. “Attracting students who study and pursue careers in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, is vital to cultivating the talented leaders and innovators who will serve our region in the years ahead.” 

“Something that has personally driven me throughout my entire career--seek out knowledge and be curious,” Belgrave-Banton shared with the students at the conclusion of her remarks. “It seems so simple, but it’s something that will always help you. Curiosity is something that can drive a passion throughout the entirety of a lifetime.”