A Conversation with Professor Voltzow about the STEM Honors Pr...

    Dr. Voltzow at work
    July 1, 2019
    The goal of the program is to give the opportunity for students who are really excited about STEM to be able to get involved right away.- Janice Voltzow Ph.D.

    The Magis Honors program in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is a new program at The University of Scranton that was created to help students understand what research is, the benefits of doing research and how STEM professionals can help society.  Through group meetings and individual research projects, students will gain the skills to both conduct research and communicate this research to others.

    We sat down with one of the founders of the program, biology professor Janice Voltzow, Ph.D., to learn more.

    What is the goal of the Magis Honors program in STEM?

    The goal was to have a program that freshmen could start in who are really interested in doing research in STEM, and to give them the opportunity to get started a little bit earlier.

    What is the course like?

    The students will participate in a series of seminar courses. We meet once a week in the evening and we bring together students from all four classes (freshmen, sophomore, junior and senior). Some weeks, students are giving presentations to other students, some weeks they’re divided up by cohort, and we work them through, semester by semester, the process of how science and technology work, how this work gets published, how to look for research papers in a given field, and who are the faculty members who do research in these areas.

    What kind of community outreach does the program do?

    We’ve been working with the McNichols Plaza elementary school. A fourth-grade teacher there has developed an amazing program for her students for STEM activities, and so our students go on a regular basis and work with her so she has extra hands. They also come to the University and we do things with them here. The University has a program with United Neighborhood Centers -- they have an afterschool program with middle school and high school students, and they come in the spring for several STEAM activities (that’s STEM with art). They come on to our campus because we want them to feel comfortable and welcome here. Our students volunteer and work with them, we do STEM exercises, and we do dissecting. Last year we dissected earthworms. We’ve done sea urchins and fish too!

    With the fourth graders, we did a project on natural selection, so we try to mix it up. They’ve also done some physics exercises and they’ve done some microbiology exercises, so we’re trying to give them a taste of some of the diversity that there is in the STEM fields.

    Why is this program unique?

    The goal of the program is to give the opportunity for students who are really excited about STEM to be able to get involved right away. And it’s so much fun. They are so excited about what they’re doing, and there’s an awful lot of sharing of that enthusiasm. Someone will just spontaneously say ‘Oh I want to show everybody this thing that I’ve been working on,’ and they’ll just bring up some project that they’re doing, and everybody will get involved! They’ll start talking about it. And then another week someone will say ‘Oh, by the way, I just found this neat website,’ or ‘I found this neat program I can use’ and they’ll start talking about that. It’s really neat! 

    Meet the students taking part in the program here!

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