Bridges to Baccalaureate Program Allows Students to Conduct University Research

RANDOLPH, NJ – During the recent annual STEM Research Conference held at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, County College of Morris (CCM) biology major Andrea Serrano Trujillo, a second-year student who lives in Wharton, presented a poster summarizing the research she conducted at Drew University through CCM’s Bridges to Baccalaureate (B2B) program.

Serrano Trujillo was selected to present a poster summarizing her research during the 11th Annual Garden State-Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation / Northern New Jersey Bridges to Baccalaureate STEM Research Conference, which was attended by more than 500 STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) students and professors.

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The B2B program, funded by a National Science Foundation grant, enables community college students, like Serrano Trujillo, to participate in university research during their first or second year of college —a valuable opportunity for practical, hands-on experience that many college students don’t get so early in their education.

For her presentation, Serrano Trujillo created a poster summarizing the background, methods and findings of the research she conducted over the summer at Drew University with Dr. Tammy Windfelder, a professor at Drew, and three Drew undergraduate students. The study, “Analysis of the Small Mammal Community on Drew University’s Campus,” focused on assessing the impact that the white-tailed deer population has on the chipmunk and squirrel communities.

Serrano Trujillo says, “I worked closely with Professor Windfelder in making my own poster, since I had never made one before, and had never interpreted data. She gave me the guidance I needed.”

Serrano Trujillo says she is grateful for the B2B program. “It opened my eyes to the fact that there’s more to science than being a medical doctor. Now I’m interested in what I can contribute to research,” she says. She also learned that “you have to be able to talk about what you find in your research.”

As a CCM student, Serrano Trujillo says, she has had multiple opportunities to gain hands-on experience. “I have done some pretty cool things, like also working with CCM faculty members on research training and new research — things you don’t get to do in a classroom.”

Now in its second year at CCM with 21 students participating, B2B provides underrepresented students with extensive support, guidance and research opportunities to assist them in transferring to a four-year institution to earn a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field. The program is open to both entering first-year and continuing CCM students interested in STEM careers. Applications for the program are currently being accepted for the 2020 Spring Semester. To apply, go to www.ccm.edu/nnj/nnj-application/.

“The ‘B2B’ program is a perfect example of the strong emphasis that County College of Morris places on supporting underrepresented minorities, while giving students practical learning opportunities to help them advance their college education and set them on a successful career path,” notes Professor Teresa Birrer, the program’s coordinator at CCM.

Along with paid research opportunities, B2B provides students with peer mentoring, transfer seminars, workshops to improve their college success, and the opportunity to attend, and potentially present at, the annual research conference at Rutgers. Each spring, the students also participate in a "sySTEMic Challenge,” a team competition to address a worldwide problem. This year's topic is related to the buildup of plastics waste. Teams will present their ideas at a multi-college event in early 2020.