Experience Through a Community of Research

Dr. Rosypal works with the Carolina Raptor Center to research parasites in birds of prey.
Photo by JCSU Staff
Dr. Rosypal works with the Carolina Raptor Center to research parasites in birds of prey.
Dr. Alexa Rosypal, assistant professor of biology, has conducted major research in the field of parasitology in collaboration with the Virginia- Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech. She spent the summer researching the intestinal roundworm parasite of dogs. Her past research has continued with JCSU students and a visiting scientist, resulting in presentations and the sharing of cutting-edge research with other faculty and students.

Rosypal is among the many faculty members and students participating in internships, research and mentoring at the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

During the summer of 2012, 79 of the nearly 350 STEM majors explored a variety of transformational scientific and technical fields of study as interns and researchers at Wake Forest University, Georgia Tech, East Carolina University and at businesses and industries throughout the United States. Through these opportunities, Johnson C. Smith University prepares students to master skills they will need to successfully enter their fields of study in the competitive global marketplace.

The STEM College provides these experiences early in the students’ college years which results in both increased retention and graduation rates. Each STEM major participates in National Science Foundation-funded STEM activities provided through the HBCU-UP (Historically Black Colleges and Universities-Undergraduate Program) and the OASIS (One–Stop Academic Student Integration System) program. Students are mentored by STEM academic success coaches, tutored in a variety of STEM courses and attend and make presentations at regional and national conferences. They are also offered medical school and graduate school preparation courses each semester and may apply for test-taking scholarships as they prepare for the MCAT and GRE.

The journal included the following 2012 community of research award winners:

  • Randale Watson, a computer engineering major, received a first place award for his project on Emergency Detection and Relief Using Robotics at the February Emerging Researchers National Conference in STEM.
  • Rolanda-Sue Johnson, a biology and chemistry major who graduated in May 2012, won third place for presenting a research project on Ground Truthing LIDAR Data Within a Successionally Diverse Piedmont Forest.
  • Kirachae Graham, a junior computer science and information systems major, won second place at the Carolinas Women in Computing Conference for her research project titled Gap Analysis: Cell Phone Forensic Tools. For her work, Graham received a full scholarship to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference in Maryland in October 2012. 

The research conducted by STEM students and faculty members was recently published in Johnson C. Smith University’s first HBCU-UP Community of Research Abstract Journal highlighting more than 40 projects performed over the past two years. “Our faculty and students are highly involved in a wide range of research projects in such areas as cyber security, homeland security, data mining, gaming and animation, robotics, parasitology and bioinformatics,” said Dr. Madgy Attia, dean of the College of STEM.

Additionally, faculty members also receive funding through HBCU-UP to attend conferences and conduct research in their areas of interest. Funding is offered for re-tooling projects and/or mini grants. For example, Dr. Hang Chen is leading research in homeland security and risk management and working with Dr. Lijuan Cao on sensor networks research. Dr. Ying Bai is conducting research in robotics and Dr. Satish Bhalla has built a minor program in bioinformatics, funded by Carnegie Mellon and the National Institute of Health.

Considering the nation’s focus on enhancing science, technology, engineering and mathematics, there is no time like the present to be part of the STEM College at JCSU. The number of students in STEM majors is growing and represents about 20 percent of the total student body. Nearly half of the STEM majors are female, an unusual but encouraging trend, according to Janice Kennedy- Sloan, HBCU-UP program administrator. To ensure success in the program, student retention rates and graduation progression rates are monitored and evaluated periodically in order to provide necessary support services for students. She is quick to point out that when students face academic challenges, they are assigned to a tutor connected to a study group, or supported through the G 4.0 study skills program. Through the OASIS program, academic success coaches also provide full-time support services to STEM students while measuring academic and non-academic progress.

Randale Watson holds his robotics prototype with his team of classmates. The group’s award-winning project was titled “Emergency Detection and Relief Using Robotics .”
JCSU Staff
Randale Watson holds his robotics prototype with his team of classmates. The group’s award-winning project was titled “Emergency Detection and Relief Using Robotics .”
Such benefits of STEM continue past graduation. During the past four years, graduates have been accepted to 24 graduate and professional schools including Rice University, Santa Fe Institute, Ohio State University, Carnegie Mellon University, Howard University, Rochester Institute of Technology. “Our university remains committed to cultivating highly-skilled professionals and scholars who are prepared for STEM-related careers and graduate and professional schools,” said President Ronald L. Carter.

The College of STEM continues to become recognized as faculty and students share their knowledge at conferences and internships off campus. Last fall, the College of STEM hosted a regional conference with the theme “Enhancing Our Global Impact Through STEM Innovation.” The conference enabled STEM professionals from colleges and universities throughout the U.S. to share experiences with representatives from the National Science Foundation, research laboratories, businesses and industry leaders including Microsoft, Time-Warner, Inc., the North Carolina Research Center, David H. Murdock Research Institute, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, NASA and others.

“By gathering together to share best practices and forge critical partnerships, it is inevitable that we will be able to positively influence future agendas in STEM fields,” said Carter.”