The Emerging Researchers National Conference in STEM – A Showcase of Talent and Promise for the Future
When I was a faculty member at Hampton University, one of my favorite activities was accompanying a group of STEM students to the Historically Black College and Universities-Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP) Conference. These annual conferences were held at universities like Albany State, Southern in New Orleans, North Carolina A&T, to name a few, and gave students from HBCU-UP funded institutions a first opportunity to present their research. Once I became the program director for the HBCU-UP program at the National Science Foundation, I felt that this opportunity should be extended to all undergraduate and graduate students seeking such an experience. With the American Association for the Advancement of Science as the grantee, this vision became a reality and the Emerging Researchers National (ERN) Conference was born in 2011.
The 2019 Emerging Researchers National Conference was held February 21-23, 2019 in Washington, DC. The conference was attended by approximately 800 students from 256 different institutions of higher education. Ninety-eight graduate students and 547 undergraduate students presented their research in all areas of STEM and STEM education. Students hailed from 34 states, as well as Washington DC, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. 59% of the presenters were women and 75% of the students identified as Black or Hispanic.
To convey how participants feel about this conference, I asked a student from Jarvis Christian College in Texas to share her thoughts. To put Chartaveoua Graggs’ college experience in context: Jarvis Christian College is a private HBCU that offers STEM undergraduate degrees in Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics only. The campus directory lists nine STEM faculty and the website cites the enrollment figure at about 900 students in 2018. Here is her story:
I am Chartaveoua Graggs a junior from Shreveport, Louisiana. I am pursuing a major in Biology with a minor in Chemistry at Jarvis Christian College, Hawkins TX. Since summer 2018, I began basic biomedical research which is funded through an NSF grant. Under the supervision of Dr. Shakhawat Bhuiyan and Dr. Glendora Carter I have gained the opportunity to conduct research on the ‘Anticancer potential of the Crude extract of Ginger on the MCF-7 Human Breast Cancer Cells’. My passion for research has continued to grow and I have presented my research at the 2019 Emerging Researchers National Conference in STEM in Washington D.C. This conference has allowed me to enhance my communication skills, network with other students and professionals, and gain more information on careers, internships, and graduate school opportunities. What I enjoyed most was the speakers, hearing their journeys toward a career in STEM has inspired me to never give up on my future. In the future I plan to expand my studies in cancer research to understand cancer risk associated with cosmetic products. I salute the ERN conference for inspiring the youth, and minority students to pursue STEM careers.
ERN is a magical and awe-inspiring gathering of students, faculty, exhibitors, speakers, and presenters where students feel they are welcomed, cherished and celebrated for their work. In addition to presenting their research, students learn how to prepare for the next step in their career, be it graduate school or the workforce. The conference presents the students with role models in the form of speakers. The most well received speakers at the 2019 conference were a group of former ERN attendees participating in a panel discussion on the influence and impact of this conference on their lives and careers. These former HBCU students showed those in attendance a pathway to a successful career.
ERN is funded by the HBCU-UP, Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation, Centers of Research Excellence in Science and Technology, Tribal Colleges and Universities Program, and Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate programs in the Division of Human Resource Development at the National Science Foundation.
Photo:Jarvis Christian College junior, Chartaveoua Graggs, in the lab and with a group of her colleagues and mentors at the ERN Conference.