McNair Scholars Learn about STEM Opportunities at GW

Undergraduate scholars from Florida International University visit Science and Engineering Hall, explore graduate STEM programs.

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McNair Scholars from Florida International University visited GW to learn about graduate offerings in STEM fields. (Logan Werlinger/GW Today)
January 19, 2018

By Briahnna Brown

The McNair Scholar cohort from Florida International University (FIU) asked question after question Wednesday about graduate programs at the George Washington University in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The scholars were eager to know about research and fellowship opportunities at GW. They asked about life as a grad student in Washington, D.C. And they wanted to know about advantages of doing research in the nation’s capital.

The group’s visit to GW was part of a national tour that provides the scholars from FIU an opportunity to learn about graduate programs in STEM fields. Named after astronaut and physicist Ronald E. McNair, the McNair Scholars Program was designed to provide opportunity for low-income, first-generation undergraduate students and students from under-represented, disadvantaged backgrounds to pursue post-baccalaureate education. The scholars from FIU focus on STEM fields.

Michael Tapscott, director of the Multicultural Student Service Center at GW, said that having McNair Scholars at GW could cultivate an interest in the scholars eventually becoming faculty at GW and role models on campus. He added that a successful visit with the scholars could lead to them discussing GW with other McNair Scholar Programs at the 200 colleges and universities that participate in the program.

 "It was very exciting that Florida International University requested the opportunity to visit and partner with us," Mr. Tapscott said. “My hope is that based on the quality of their experience here, we'll have more McNair programs from other colleges across the country coming here and experiencing the GW life.”

Scholars were welcomed with remarks from Royce Francis, associate professor with the School of Engineering and Applied Science. The group toured Science and Engineering Hall with graduate biomedical engineering student Shakti Gurikar, learning about the technology being used and research being conducted in some SEH labs.

Caroline Laguerre-Brown, vice-provost for Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement, spoke to the scholars about GW’s efforts to be inclusive and accommodating to its diverse community and the importance of underrepresented minority scholars who bring the perspective of “those who are not normally at the table.”

"I encourage you, whatever field you decide to pursue, particularly in the STEM field where the representation is so poor, each one of you has the power to inspire the next generation of scholars to consider a STEM field,” Ms. Laguerre-Brown said. “Each time one of you makes a decision to pursue a STEM field, to pursue something in academia, you increase the likelihood that others will follow in your footsteps.”


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Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement Caroline Laguerre-Brown addresses McNair Scholars. (Logan Werlinger/GW Today)


James Perez-Sanchez, a senior physics major at FIU who hopes to get a Ph.D. in medical physics, said that the talk from Dr. Francis helped him to realize how fortunate he is to be a McNair Scholar and how important it is to find your passion within STEM fields.

"I'm trying to find, when I go to graduate school, what I’m going to be passionate about…and become a master at that thing and do my tiny little part in changing the world in some way,” Mr. Perez-Sanchez said. “It was really cool it get that insight from him."

Valentina Dargam, a senior biomedical engineering major at FIU whose research focuses on the cognitive responses of bilingual people, said she’s interested in the research opportunities she would have pursuing a doctorate at GW.

"I like the fact that GW in general is very involved with what's going on here on Capitol Hill," Dargam said, listing National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health partnerships as examples. "There's a lot of other agencies that you have right here at that palm of your hand just by location and also affiliation."