Investing in the Future of STEM

Stony Brook, NY; Stony Brook University: Summer STEM students

Stony Brook University students participate in the Stony Brook University Exploration in STEM Research program during Summer 2016.

Innovation is an integral part of PSEG Long Island’s commitment to being a modern day utility . From using new technology to provide exceptional customer service, to upgrading our transmission and distribution systems and improving the electrical grid, we’re always looking at what’s ahead for the industry; which is why we’re investing in those who are shaping its future—students.

Over the past two years, we’ve partnered with Stony Brook University to fund Stony Brook University Exploration in STEM Research, a 10-week-long summer program for college students in relevant majors. The program is geared towards freshmen and sophomores who would not necessarily have the opportunity to do research, according to PSEG Foundation education program officer Lisa Gleason.

“A lot of these students would have to spend their summers working in order to help fund school,” Gleason said. “Through this program, we’re able to engage and excite these students who might not otherwise have time or access to this type of research.”

The PSEG Foundation, a separate 501(c)(3) entity through which PSEG provides grants to charitable organizations, has committed almost $300,000 to the program to fund housing, materials and provide a stipend for participating students. In order to participate, students must come up with a research proposal, find a faculty member to act as a mentor throughout the summer, and submit an application, which is reviewed by a faculty selection committee. The committee accepts roughly 20 students per summer.

“It’s like these students have a job, but instead they’re gaining experience in their field,” Gleason said, adding that while STEM is relatively broad, the program is geared towards those with engineering concentrations.

Recently, we sat down with three of the students from the program to talk about their work and future careers in STEM.

tahseen-tabassum

Tahseen Tabassum
Hometown: Jamaica, Queens via Bangladesh
Year / Major: Junior / Chemical and molecular engineering with a minor in physics

Tahseen Tabassum has always been fascinated by 3D printers since the machinery became popular a few years ago. In working with her professor Dr. Taejin Kim, Tabassum spent her summer designing and creating reactors using 3D printing. The small, plastic apparatuses are used to run chemicals through in order to measure an organic reaction and therefore, a release of energy.

“I design the reactors in Auto-CAD, which then produces data that we can analyze to determine what reactors will work best and for which chemicals,” she said.

stony-brook-118

Tahseen and her professor, Dr. Taejin Kim.

Additionally, being able to print the reactors saves money, as the materials for printing are much less expensive than purchasing the devices from a company.

“Reactors are used in just about every aspect of engineering,” she added. “I could use this skill in process engineering (related to the oil industry), cosmetic engineering, traditional chemical engineering – anything, really.”

But perhaps the most helpful part of the program, she said, was a seminar called “Communicating Science,” where faculty and alumni worked with students to take their complicated and technical research and relay it in a more simple but attention-grabbing way.

“The entire experience was awesome,” she said. “I hope I get a chance to do it next year.”

nick-st-john
Nick St. John
Hometown:
Malverne, Long Island
Year / Major: Sophomore / Electrical engineering

From a young age, Nick St. John saw a bright future for himself—literally. Inspired by his father’s career as an electrician, St. John said he has always been interested in not only how light is produced, but why.

His project focused on a process called sonoluminescence, a phenomena where light is created from sound waves. By submerging sound waves in water, bubbles are created. When the bubbles pop, they create light, and possibly, a form of electricity through nuclear fusion, St. John explained.

“One scientist claimed he was able to create energy through this process, which would be huge because you can get a lot of energy out of it without putting very much into it,” he said. “No one’s been able to replicate it since, but I’m trying to.”

The STEM program also provided St. John and his classmates with exposure to writing proposals, networking, and expanding his resume—invaluable skills when job-hunting.

“I’d never written a proposal before this, and didn’t have a ton to put on my resume,” said St. John. “Now, I feel like I’m ahead of the game, professionally and in my classes. A lot of what I’ve learned over the summer has come up in class, just over the past couple of weeks [since school’s been in session].”

amna-haider
Amna Haider
Hometown:
Westchester, NY
Year / Major: Junior / Biomedical engineering with a minor in chemistry

Also inspired by the work of her parents—her mother in medicine and her father an engineer—Amna Haider hopes her future will combine the two. As a biomedical engineering major, Haider’s summer research project examined the effect of cocaine on bone composition.

“Throughout the summer we were able to see a measurable, significant difference and decomposition in the rats’ bones,” she said. “The bone strength and density decreased and the bones actually got smaller. It was such a significant difference and so exciting to be able to see that through research.”

This past summer was Haider’s second year with the program, previously creating a video game to help obese patients lose weight. The video game tasked players with making their way through small villages, where they were faced with a physical challenge, before finally reaching—and having to defeat—an evil king.

“The game let us incorporate motions, which we then could measure,” Haider explained. “As the person’s range of motion increased, we could determine whether the game was working and their health was improving.”

Upon graduation, Haider hopes to pursue an M.D. and PhD to work as both a licensed physician and a researcher.

We wish all the students who participated in STEM the best of luck in school this year, and can’t wait to see what next year’s research has in store!

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