Advancing the Frontiers of Knowledge:
The Science Honors Innovation Program
The Importance of the STEM Disciplines
To ensure continued technological leadership in the world, the American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI) was created in 2007 to invest in basic research in science and engineering because, “… research develops and advances knowledge and technologies that are used by scientists in nearly every other field.” These fields, collectively known as the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), were singled out because of their potential to increase American competitiveness through innovation in pure and applied science in conjunction with the economic benefit derived from innovation in these fields.
The 2009 report to Congress from the President of the National Academy of Science notes:
Recent unexpected challenges to our economy and industrial base have again placed a spotlight on the overarching need we identified in our 2005 report Rising Above the Gathering Storm. The United States must take the steps necessary to keep the nation viable and competitive in the globalized economy.
President Barack Obama has announced that “it is time we once again put science at the top of our agenda and work to restore America’s place as the world leader in science and technology.”
A Critical Research Agenda
The College of Science and Mathematics has a well-established tradition of preparing intelligent, ambitious students for graduate work and careers in technical fields. Changes in the global economy have made it clear that we must go further, to inspire creativity in the STEM disciplines by creating cohorts of researchers who will advance innovation and technological leadership in this country.
Montclair State's Response
In response to the increasingly obvious need for such science professionals, Montclair State proposes the creation of the Science Honors Innovation Program (SHIP), a 10-year program to create an annual cohort of 12 highly skilled CSAM graduates trained and fully prepared for careers in innovative science.
This program will strengthen our ability to offer our most promising students an upper level honors program in the sciences that hones them for their “next step” through intensive research programs and opportunities to promote innovation, while grooming them for major national and international awards and recognition.
Researchers are made, not born. Although a student may have the inclination towards leadership-level creativity in the STEM disciplines, that spark must be ignited by the proper conditions: basic knowledge, training in the rigor of research methods, and exposure to opportunities and innovative minds. The Science Honors Innovation Program provides all of these aspects, as detailed below.
The Science Honors Innovation Program will be available to junior an senior students enrolled in any of the majors in the College of Science and Mathematics. The University already has an Honors Program open to all majors, but this program only runs for the freshman and sophomore years. The primary pool of candidates for SHIP will emerge from CSAM students already enrolled in the University Honors Program: those who have already gone through the University selection process, have maintained their enthusiasm for the sciences, and hold strong potentia future success.
Our SHIP students will be oriented to opportunities for their Honor’s thesis through a research faculty seminar rotation program that will include discussion of ongoing research and general methodologies of successful research programs, plus tours of our research laboratories.
Special mentoring from research faculty with support from external professionals in relevant industries: In addition to the individual student’s Honors thesis, which will be mentored by an individual faculty member within CSAM, the student will also have full access to that faculty member’s research facilities, library and other resources as well as lines of communication (direct and electronic) to leading professionals in STEM industries. The faculty mentor, in addition to the Program director and industry partner, will help guide the student towards a publishable honor’s thesis and guide him/her towards successful applications to graduate programs and/or appropriate STEM positions.
Regular Contact with CSAM Leaders
To insure our SHIP students have full opportunities to recognize the growing need for inter- and transdisciplinary approaches to the sciences, we will insure they have regular opportunities to meet with our CSAM Institute and Center directors. These institutes/centers (e.g. Institute for Sustainability Studies, Passaic River Institute, Bristol-Myers Squibb Center for Science Teaching and Learning) are founded on interdisciplinary approaches to solving some of the most vexing issues in the sciences today.
Each SHIP student will be required to present their research at the ann MSU Student Research Symposium. This occurs each year in the late spring and offers our students a comfortable and familiar venue for presenting their research in poster or oral format.
Our SHIP students will also be required to submit and present their accepted research at a national or international STEM conference. At this conference they will be required to compete for the “best student paper/presentation” award. These competitive awards are standard practice at most professional science/math conferences and recognize outstanding achievements by students pursuing and presenting (oral or poster) their research at the conference. Funds are requested to help support student travel to these conferences.
SHIP Students as Mentors
As our SHIP students refine their approach to science, we also want to see them refine their thinking processes. One of the best approaches to deep learning is through teaching. Nothing prepares an individual better than the opportunity to try to effectively transmit concepts to others. In the spirit of “giving back” to the STEM community, the SHIP students will, during their Junior-Senior transition summer help mentor precollege students in the Weston Science Scholars Program.
The Weston Science Scholars Program, now in its tenth year, offers selected ninth, tenth, and eleventh graders from Montclair High School the opportunity to learn science “by doing science.” The program specifically recognizes high achieving students with significant potential in science, mathematics, and related fields, thus the blending with our SHIP students makes for a very effective community. Our SHIP student will mentor these budding scientists by helping with laboratory and field research efforts and honing the skills of the Weston Science Scholars i writing and presenting scientific materials.
Students will be required to attend at least one CSAM-based seminar per month during each academic year. Within the College we offer departmental, program and College-wide seminars as well as special lecture events such as the Margaret and Herman Sokol Science Lecture and our Visiting Science Professional series. For each swe will insure that our Science Honors Innovation Program students have opportunities to meet with the speaker in distinct student-speaker sessions.
The high caliber of students recruited into this program will make them strong candidates for national/international awards for national/ international awards such as Fulbright, Goldwater, or Wilson scholarships. These highly competitive awards mandate careful grooming, as the awards require not just superior scholarship and grades, but strong writing and presentation skills. Awardees have almost always been groomed for the awards as they progress along their undergraduate programs. Our SHIP program Director will take the lead in grooming our Honors students towards applying for, preparing for, and receiving thesehonors.
View the full Program Information