Celebrating the Achievements, Embracing the Passion

By: Usha Sankar, Ph.D.
Incubator Participant
Advanced Lecturer, Department of Biological Sciences
Academic Advisor, Senior Class

Each year, my students and I look forward to the Fordham University Undergraduate Research Symposium (FUURS), where my students present their research and project proposals. However, this year, it was going to be even more special as my students had produced original, hypotheses driven research and collected data on the correlations between air quality and health outcomes.

We started with reading articles on air quality and asthma in January. I had my students come up with different ideas to access air quality and respiratory health using data from the city and the state databases, and brainstorm novel hypotheses. I even bought hand held air quality monitors so that some of my students could make their own measurements of air quality in their dorm rooms and common areas, in addition to off campus locations.

We discussed this during my regular lab session last week and the students (and I) expressed our disappointment about having to abruptly terminate the research. The saving grace has been that I had given them deadlines to compile and submit preliminary data before spring break and present their research to the entire class. Usually, I have the students present their research at the end of the semester, but something made me schedule an earlier presentation this time. In retrospect, I am so glad I did that, as the students had preliminary data, and conclusions, as well as a presentation. They could now use this as the basis for submitting abstracts to the FUURS. Needless to say, now more than ever, I am looking forward to seeing the abstracts in the symposium proceedings.

This semester has been extraordinary in every sense, and very stressful. We have all been focused on going above and beyond for our students and providing them with the best possible learning opportunities under these unprecedented circumstances. Although my class did take a moment last week to mourn what would have been this year’s FUURS, I do want to celebrate and cheer for all the original ideas and efforts from my students. It is moments like these, along with the time I have spent with the ReIMAGINE Higher Ed Incubator, that have provided me with the optimism and the feeling that there is a bright future ahead for higher education. When all of us – faculty, staff, administrators, and students – work together, we can expect our students to become scientists, innovators, and leaders who will create positive change!