Budding Women Scientists Explore STEM fields at BASE Camp
The labs and classrooms in Bannow were anything but quiet this July.
This summer, Fairfield hosted BASE Camp to excite and engage local high school female students with research in STEM fields. BASE stands for "Broadening Access to Science Education," and with its two-week residential camp, free of cost for participants, that’s exactly what it was able to do.
The first week of camp is dedicated to hands-on research. The campers are divided into small research groups with a faculty member and undergraduate student mentors. This year’s projects included: “Exploring Forensic Scientific Methods,” “Studying Autism and the Brain,” “Investigating the Effects of Exercise on the Cardiovascular System,” “Can Your Cholesterol Levels Alter Your Immune System?” and “The Germain Primes.”
Shelley Phelan, PhD, program director and professor of biology at Fairfield, said that the goal for BASE camp is to “expose these young women to the kind of research we do at the college level and show them that it is something they are capable of.”
After their week-long research projects, students spend the second week exploring potential careers in the health and science fields and receive college admission counseling. “Having the two-week residential component gives a good feel for both studying science and the college experience,” Dr. Phelan added.
Despite each group’s different research project, it was clear that they all shared an infectious enthusiasm for BASE camp and future careers in the health and science fields. Danielle McGibbon shared her desire to become an optometrist, like her mother. Other students said they wanted to become surgeons, nurses or physician’s assistants.
Thaisha Figueroa said, “I’ve never been exposed to this kind of lab. It’s been a nice preview of what college labs would be like.”
Aside from the benefit of hands-on research, students also got a taste for college life. Phonsavahn (Katai) Keophannga said, “The counselors were so welcoming on the first day.” Others said that this camp made the idea of going away to college less nerve-wracking. Angelique Campo enjoyed the change of environment. “It’s been really cool experiencing college life," she said.
The professors were equally enthusiastic about their students, noting that they were doing as well as undergraduate research assistants. The undergraduate mentors were also impressed with the students’ work. Val Aguillon ’16, a former BASE camper herself, said, “They understood the scientific terms, concepts and the field so quickly and well.”
Rising junior Sydney Hernandez had nothing but praise for the experience so far. “It’s really fun. Anyone who has the chance to go to BASE camp should definitely go!”
On Friday, July 24, from 3 to 4:30 p.m. the campers will be presenting posters on their research findings in the Bannow Science Center Atrium. All are welcome to stop by and see the results of their work.
By: Cristina Esmiol ‘16
Marketing & Communications Intern
Communication and French major; marketing minor
Pictured L-R: Gallerie Quezada, Phonsavahn (Katai) Keophannga & Charlotte Haas. These BASE Camp students took part in the "Studying Autism and the Brain" research project led by Drs. Shannon Harding (psychology) and Laura McSweeney (mathematics). For more information on BASE Camp, visit their website.