STARS Program Expands Opportunities for Undergraduate Research

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The Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at Colgate University has launched the Science and Technology Accelerated Research Scholars (STARS) program, which connects first-year students from under-resourced high schools and regions to research opportunities. 

In 2022, the inaugural STARS program was directed by Professor of Biology Krista Ingram. Each cohort of first-year students receives 4–6 hours of work-study experience per week in a lab with a faculty partner. Projects vary across STEM disciplines such as physics, computer science, and biology. 

“STARS was formed as a grassroots effort to improve equitable access to STEM research at Colgate,” says Ingram. 

Etiosa Ojefua ’26, an international student from Nigeria, undertook his project with Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies Frank Frey. Frey’s ongoing investigation of environmental health issues in southwestern Uganda led to their project on antibiotic resistance.

“I was tasked with analyzing the bacteria cells and coming up with a thesis, plus theories to support it,” says Ojefua. “Professor Frey guided me through everything and became my mentor. Our research will support funding for hospitals in Uganda — that’s what I want to be able to do in my home country one day.”

Roma Lerner ’27 first realized her passion for sustainability and ecology at home in Oahu, Hawaii. Today, she’s working with Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies Tim McCay on a project about jumping worms, an invasive species. Their research seeks to correlate climate and soil properties with the seasonal behavior of three types of jumping worms.

These positions continue throughout the academic year and into the summer, even as Ingram and her colleagues continue to build STARS into a staple program within the Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

“Offering more opportunities for student-scholars to be involved in research early in their Colgate experience enhances our ability to build an inclusive and supportive Colgate science community,” says Ingram.