The labs and classrooms at Bannow Technology Classrooms at Fairfield University were anything but quiet in July.
This summer, Fairfield hosted BASE Camp in an effort to excite and engage female high school students with research in STEM fields. BASE stands for "Broadening Access to Science Education," and with its two-week residential camp, free for participants, that’s exactly what it was able to do. STEM refers to subjects involving science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The first week of camp is dedicated to hands-on research. The campers are divided into small research groups with a faculty member and undergraduate student mentors. This year’s projects included: “Exploring Forensic Scientific Methods,” “Studying Autism and the Brain,” “Investigating the Effects of Exercise on the Cardiovascular System,” “Can Your Cholesterol Levels Alter Your Immune System?” and “The Germain Primes.”
Shelley Phelan, Ph.D., program director and professor of biology at Fairfield, said the goal for BASE camp is to “expose these young women to the kind of research we do at the college level and show them that it is something they are capable of.”
After their weeklong research projects, students spend the second week exploring potential careers in the health and science fields and receive college admission counseling.
Despite each group’s different research project, it was clear the students all shared an infectious enthusiasm for BASE camp and future careers in the health and science fields.
Danielle McGibbon shared her desire to become an optometrist, like her mother. Other students said they wanted to become surgeons, nurses or physician’s assistants.
Thaisha Figueroa said, “I’ve never been exposed to this kind of lab. It’s been a nice preview of what college labs would be like.”
Aside from the benefit of hands-on research, students also got a taste for college life. Phonsavahn (Katai) Keophannga said, “The counselors were so welcoming on the first day.”
Angelique Campo enjoyed the change of environment. “It’s been really cool experiencing college life," she said.
The undergraduate mentors also were impressed with the students’ work. Val Aguillon ’16, a former BASE camper herself, said, “They understood the scientific terms, concepts and the field so quickly and well.”