STEM Academy members host inaugural social

[Eliana Munoz] Sarah Guzman (right) discusses her algae research project with biology professor Christine Goedhart.

Student members of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Academy received a warm welcome Oct. 3 as they presented their summer research projects at the inaugural Citrus College STEM Symposium.

“It seems ironic, right? The school’s struggled with a variety of budget issues,” said dean of physical/natural sciences Eric Rabitoy. “But the STEM program has brought money to the school that allows us to open the STEM center, to try out supplemental instruction, to give opportunities like [the symposium] to students. If they work, we have enough money through the grant to continue that into the future. So it’s made a huge difference.”

The 18 presenters researched different topics in the four STEM fields, ranging from the flight paths of unmanned aerial vehicles to freeway interchange design. Through the Academy, their research took place at Cal Poly Pomona and CSU Fullerton for a period of 6-8 weeks over the summer.

The student researchers were required to work on-site for 40 hours a week. Upon successful completion of their projects, they were each awarded a $5,000 stipend.

“I asked a couple of friends who had done the program before at other campuses, and they gave me a little bit of encouragement because I was a really intimidated by the scale of everything,” said 21-year-old biology major Jacqueline Ellis. “The $5,000 for eight weeks, the 40 hours a week, it just sounds so heavy.”

But Ellis, who researched methane output by microorganisms in cows, was able to overcome her feelings of trepidation. The experience was new for all 18 members, as the STEM program at Citrus is only in its second year of operation.

Funding for the STEM program came from a five-year grant awarded in 2011 to Citrus from the U.S. Department of Education. The school receives $870,000 per year in funding, which is distributed between various STEM services, including the Math Success Center and peer mentoring.

Some STEM Academy members get additional perks when they transfer to four-year universities. The Citrus program partnered with CSU Fullerton’s Strengthening Transfer Education and Matriculation program, known as STEM-squared. Members of the STEM Academy who choose to transfer to CSU Fullerton—like Ellis—earn priority registration and special consideration on their applications.

And the only requirement for entry into the Academy is an interest in science, technology, engineering, or math.

“We don’t turn anybody down for the STEM Academy,” said program coordinator Marianne Smith. “We have a lot of people who are undecided and think they may change their major down the road.”

“We see the STEM Academy as a community of learners. These are students with shared interests.”

Smith says that the STEM Academy is planning several upcoming events including a careers in math and science panel. In November, professionals in the two fields will field questions from students about their various jobs.

“Sometimes we’re on a path and we think we know where we’re going, but we’re not really aware of all the options that there are until we have the opportunity to talk to a professional,” Smith said.

Students interested in joining the STEM Academy should contact Marianne Smith at, or visit the STEM website at

The careers in math and science event will be hosted Nov. 13 in CI 159 from 1-3 p.m.