CLEVELAND, Ohio — Dr. Heather Burton, of Case Western Reserve University, works as program director for a summer research experience which is a part of the Northern Ohio AGEP Alliance. The program is funded through the National Science Foundation. It's part of summer bridge program at the university, developed to ensure that underrepresented minority students receive additional support and professional development

    What You Need To Know

    • The program was developed to ensure that underrepresented minority students receive additional support and professional development 

    • Due to COVID-19, the 10-week extensive hands-on program will be conducted remotely

    • The program serves as a pipeline for the undergraduates to pursue a Ph.D. in STEM

Due to COVID-19, this summer will look a little different for the participants who would usually travel to Cleveland and live on the Case Western campus for the 10-week extensive hands-on  program.  

“I'm encouraging students, not only our NOA AGEP students, but students just in general that I speak to that may even hear this,  that there are opportunities still available that may not look like what we are used to them looking like,” said Heather E. Purton.

The summer program, which serves as a pipeline for the undergraduates to pursue a Ph.D in STEM, partners with 7 historically black colleges and universities across the country to identify participants and pair them with a Case Western Reserve faculty mentor.

Burton developed a model to allow the students to participate in the program remotely. 

“Our faculty that we work with, that are servicing students this summer, they were able to come up with some type of research experience that will still be done where the students can work from home. They have benchmarks now. They will be required to turn in lab notes weekly to see their progress, to see how things are going. So, different things like that will make it accessible for them to still have this experience and the blessing also in this is that we were able to still provide them with a stipend,” Burton said.

NaShea Kendrick participated in the Northern Ohio AGEP Alliance summer research program over the past two summers.

“Before I joined the program, I hadn't really thought about doing a Ph.D. I didn't really know what getting a Ph.D. meant,” Kendrick said.

This fall, she will be moving to Cleveland to pursue her Ph.D at Case Western Reserve — something she says is a direct result of her experiences at the summer research program.

“One of the things that really convinced me that I wanted to be a part of a Ph.D. program, but also one at Case, is the time that we spent with Ph.D. students who are currently there. I don't know a lot of people with Ph.Ds in the sciences and this whole experience really showed me that there are people who look like me and that are being successful in their field,” she said.

Burton says continuing the summer research program virtually is vital to ensure students know that opportunities still await them, even during the time of COVID-19. 

“These programs provide leverage to hopefully create a playing field. It now becomes equitable for our students to be put into situations where they can achieve academically,” Burton said.