SPC Represented at STEM Conference

Magaly Tymms

Magaly Tymms, Director of Institutional Effectiveness at St. Petersburg College, was chosen to present at this year’s American Association of Colleges and Universities‘ (AAC&U) prestigious and highly competitive Transforming STEM Higher Education conference.  Held virtually this year on November 5-7, the conference focuses on questioning and examining contemporary challenges to and opportunities for STEM higher education reform in ways that advantage all and disadvantage none. Tymms will present on Exploring the Impact STEM Undergraduate Research Experiences (UREs) have on Underrepresented Minorities.

Recognizing her initiative and support as a Co-Primary Investigator for the National Science Foundation, Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Tampa Bay Bridge to Baccalaureate (TB-B2B) grant, Tymms will share her experience on developing an eight-week STEM research project model that is facilitated by SPC professors in the TB-B2B students’ STEM major. The model she created ensures consistence, accountability, student learning outcomes and impartiality across all STEM degree majors. Students have had opportunities to participate in UREs in Microbiology/Biology, Mathematics/Statistics, Environmental Science/Ecology, Robotics and Cybersecurity Technologies.   

Bringing Women and Minorities into STEM Fields

After earning her degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Florida and working as an Avionics Software Engineer at Allied Signal for 20 years, Tymms likes to encourage women and minorities to pursue and succeed in STEM careers. This has fueled her passion to provide undergraduate research opportunities for students at St. Petersburg College, where no formalized option existed, through her participation with the TB-B2B grant.  Providing STEM students with experiential learning strategies such as Undergraduate Research Experiences (UREs) early in their careers serves to further engage students with professors, teach valuable hands on skills, and offer an exploration technologies that are imperative to succeed in their chosen STEM fields. The implementation of UREs at community colleges has been identified as a high-impact strategy that assists colleges in increasing student motivation and engagement and improving student performance.

Since the 2018-19 academic year, 11 SPC TB-B2B underrepresented minority students pursuing four-year STEM degrees have completed UREs with professors in their fields of interest. One completed a CMaT Research Experience for Undergraduates at the University of Georgia; one completed the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) Virtual Experience; one completed an Internship at a local employer; and seven are presently engaged in UREs with each of their STEM professors, for a total of twenty-one students.  Seven of these students have since graduated from SPC and transferred to a bachelor’s degree program.

Valuable Lessons

URE student activities have included performing primary literature research; conducting laboratory experiments; goal setting and status updates; calculating averages in Excel; sampling bacteria count; applying aseptic technique on agar plates; participating in ecological restoration at lake; designing and administering survey to local residents, analyzing results; designing, building and programming autonomous robotics using the Lego Mindstorm EV3 kit; applying cybersecurity knowledge/skills to perform primary research regarding Capture the Flag competition forms and available open-source resources.

Under Tymms’ guidance, as a required component of every research project, all students must submit a compiled report of the research and activities they complete each week, including results observed, assumptions, and/or conclusions, learning achieved, etc. To date, Tymms has compiled the results of the student research into two annual SPC Undergraduate Research magazines, heralded as an exemplary practice by the National Science Foundation grantee partners.  

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