UMass Boston Bridges to Baccalaureate Programs Helps Community College Students Succeed

MassBay Community College (MBCC) is one of three community colleges that have partnered with the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMass Boston) on a paid 10-week STEM research summer program at the Boston campus that’s geared toward community college students.

The Bridges to the Baccalaureate Program at UMass Boston strives to support and assist in the transition of underrepresented community college students to four-year institutions to pursue bachelor’s degrees and careers in the biomedical or behavioral sciences fields, according to a MassBay release.

The other two institutions participating in the Bridges to the Baccalaureate Program are Bunker Hill and Roxbury Community Colleges. UMass Boston and the three partner community colleges are the only institutions in New England participating in the Bridges to the Baccalaureate Program, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health.

MassBay has been involved with the program since summer 2017, with seven of its students participating. All seven MassBay students are now attending a four-year instition to continue their higher education.

When MBCC general studies science student Charles Santamaria heard about the program from his biology professor, he thought it would be “an excellent opportunity to get hands-on experience in a research lab.”

“I really loved how the program was broken up into a two-week lab skills introduction to teach students laboratory terms, understanding the equipment, research ethics and other foundational information,” Santamaria said. “The second part of the program consisted of an eight-week research experience working with master’s and PhD-level mentors which really gives you an inside look into your future career path.”

Some MBCC students researched enzyme biochemistry, amphibian disease or marine toxicology, and others, like Santamaria, studied the bacteria found in insects.

Participating in this program was an “unbelievable opportunity” for Santamaria’s resume, and for gaining a better understanding of his career path.

“Growing up, I didn’t see a lot of people around me going to college, and they certainly didn’t go into STEM fields. I am a first-generation college student, so seeing other community college students like myself doing this research, I know a career in the medical field is attainable,” he said.

The program provides support, training and mentorship for students from the community college partners so that they can experience what it’s like to conduct research during the 10-week summer program, said Alexia Pollack, program director and associate professor of biology at UMass Boston.

“Students are excited by what they are learning and as the summer progresses, their confidence grows and they see themselves as scientists.”

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