Engineering seniors Jennifer Trinh and Tara Hartman, along with recent engineering grad Antonio Lang, attended the inaugural S-STEM Scholars Meeting last fall in Washington, D.C., a fitting penultimate to successful undergraduate careers.
The three were among about 900 students from around the nation to participate in the event Sept. 14-16, designed to connect them with fellow scholars and potential employers. In addition to joining professional development sessions and other conference activities, Trinh and Lang each presented their research in a poster session.
“These are great students,” Engineering Associate Dean Indira Chatterjee, who nominated the three to attend the Scholars Meeting, said. “They’re the kind of students who do everything right.”
Trinh, Hartman and Lang all are participants in the College of Engineering’s Creating Retention and Engagement for Academically Talented Engineers (CREATE) program, currently managed by Chatterjee and Teaching Assistant Professor Ann-Marie Vollstedt.
CREATE, funded through the National Science Foundation (NSF) Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S-STEM) program, offers scholarships and other academic support to academically talented students with financial need. The S-STEM Scholars Meeting, co-hosted by the NSF and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, brought together students from S-STEM programs around the country.
Launched in 2019 with a $1 million S-STEM grant secured by Chatterjee and her team, CREATE supported 32 students in two cohorts: the first beginning in 2019; the second in 2020. It is one of many S-STEM programs at colleges throughout the nation: the programs vary from institution to institution, but all serve academically talented, low-income students in the STEM fields.
“It was really cool seeing how our S-STEM program (CREATE) works compared to other S-STEM programs,” Lang said.
Lang, who graduated this winter with a degree in computer science and engineering, presented his research on federated learning processes — machine learning techniques that train algorithms via multiple independent sessions, each using their own dataset. Lang now is heading to grad school. Trinh, who is set to earn a B.S. in biomedical engineering this spring, presented her research on soft robotics, specifically a specialized glove that can help stroke patients. Trinh plans to enter the workforce after graduation, and already has a job lined up with Medtronic, a medical devices company.
Hartman, who also plans to complete a B.S. in biomedical engineering this spring and go on to graduate school, took advantage of the networking opportunities and the career and education fair at the event.
“I really liked meeting so many different people from so many different places,” Hartman said.
The career and education fair focused more on graduate school than on industry, she added, “but luckily for me, that’s what I’m looking for.”
All three credited CREATE with supporting them not only with the scholarship assistance, but mentoring and networking opportunities, including the opportunity to attend the S-STEM Scholars Meeting. Travel, lodging and meal costs were covered for attendees.
“It really supports low-income, first-generation students,” Trinh said about CREATE. “It was nice that we were able to experience (the Scholars Meeting) without having to worry about financial issues. I definitely think we wouldn’t have had this opportunity if we weren’t in CREATE.”