UNION, NJ - Madison's Valeria Marulanda Giraldo spent the summer with high-achieving math and science students from high schools throughout New Jersey, doing hands on research in areas ranging from analytical chemistry to computational mathematics.

Giraldo along with 54 other students spent six weeks in the Group Summer Scholars Research Program held at the New Jersey Center for Science and Technology (NJCSTM.) They attended seminars; worked with faculty mentors and research assistants; and ultimately, presented posters on topics they worked on.

“This program does more than just ignite the spark of interest in STEM. It helps students understand the depth of knowledge and creativity that goes into solving complex problems,” said NJCSTM Associate Dean for Research Michael J . Tocci, Ph.D. He added that by the end of the six weeks, students are “truly knowledgeable” about their research.

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“It opens students’ eyes and imagination to what real scientific discovery is about,” Tocci said.

Research ranged from using artificial intelligence to predict crime and arrests, to employing bioanalytical techniques to study plants that show medicinally important properties. Many students said it went well beyond what they’re used to in high school.

The students were selected from among 173 applicants. In addition to excelling in math and science, nearly half came from diverse backgrounds, and almost 40 percent received financial aid or scholarships to offset the program’s tuition. Giraldo plans to pursue education in STEM fields. 

NJCSTM Managing Assistant Director Marianne Gass said the program has grown since it began in 2015, and a number of high school students who completed the summer program have enrolled as students at Kean. 

She added that the Kean graduate and undergraduates who serve as research assistants benefit as well, gaining experience by leading and working with the younger students. “It’s something they can put on their resume,” she said.


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