Seeing STARs

There aren't a lot of universities where freshman students get to perform research with faculty, studying everything from the economics of biodiesel to satellite-fixing robots to how performing arts organizations make use of the media. Drexel, however, isn't like most universities, which is why Pennoni's STAR Scholars program pairs freshman students with faculty mentors to perform high-level research. On August 24, Drexel's 2010-2011 STAR Scholars presented the results of their research projects at the annual STAR Scholars Poster Day.

The Poster Day featured a summary of the research performed by the 125 students who participated in last year's STAR Scholars program. Students involved in the program came from majors across Drexel, as evidenced by the variety of research topics that ranged from marketing smartphones to designing fashionable health-monitoring equipment to exploring how to fund nonprofits during natural disasters.

At the conclusion of the year's research, many students found that their work in the STAR Scholars program gave them not only valuable experience, but real-world insight into their career fields. STAR Scholar Melanie Jeske, a double major in Environmental Studies and Economics, discovered that her project studying a threatened species of snakes went far beyond just learning about the slithering critters. "I learned a lot about the way 'science' really works," said Jeske. "Not to mention, I gained first-hand experience in dealing with policy/science interactions." When asked how being a STAR Scholar affected her career aspirations, she said, "STAR really reaffirmed my goals."

This year's Poster Day was also the first to feature the Outstanding STAR Mentor of the Year Award. The award is given based on nomination letters written by the STAR students. This year's winner, Dr. Sriram Balasubramanian of the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science & Health Systems, not only received a plaque and certificate of recognition, but also a $1,000 research stipend to aide in continuing the research with his undergraduate student, Sona Rathod.

And Sona is far from the only student who will carry on with her research. STAR Scholars are encouraged to continue their work in a variety of capacities. Some STAR scholars have turned their projects into co-op opportunities. Other students will be presenting their work at conferences including the Minority Access National Role Models Conference, the Council of Undergraduate Research National Conference, and the IEEE Bioinformatics and Biomedicine Conference. Still others will be pursuing their research as work-study students or in a volunteer capacity.

To learn more about the STAR Scholars program, visit the STAR Scholars page, or email the Office of Undergraduate Research at our@drexel.edu.