Making STEM Education/Research Relevant Experiences in a Minority Serving College in a
Multi-Cultural City
Dr. Leon P. Johnson
Medgar Evers College, CUNY
Engaging Multicultural Audiences in Planetary Science
March 11, 2007
Lunar and Planetary Institute
Houston, Texas
The City University of New York
The nation's largest urban public university
• 11 Senior Colleges
• 6 Community Colleges
• Honors College
• Graduate School and University Center
• CUNY Graduate School of Journalism
• CUNY School of Law at Queens College
• CUNY School of Professional Studies
• Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education
226,000 degree-credit students
230,000 adult, continuing and professional education
The City University of New York
The undergraduate student body is diverse,
30% African American
28% White
27% Hispanic
16% Asian
< 1% Native-American (0.2%).
• Percentages in STEM do not reflex those percentages
• Graduate STEM is worse
• They speak 131 native languages in addition to English
• Represent 172 countries
• 38% of first-time freshmen are born outside
of the U.S. mainland
• 68% attended New York City public high
• 45% of CUNY undergraduates work more
than 20 hours/ week
• 62% attend school full-time
• 61% of undergraduates are female
• 25% quarter support children
• 31% are 25 or older
Traditional Experience
• African Americans entering science in
the 60’s and 70’s adapted to the “chalk
and talk” pedagogy or didn’t survive
• In 60’s academic support due to space
race (NDA loans, scholarships)
• No role models
• A few caring faculty at undergraduate
and graduate levels
Where are we now?
• Low achievement due to inappropriate
learning strategies – chalk and talk doesn’t
• Curriculum does not match learning style.
• Little recruitment beyond college fairs and
high school visits.
• Space Science interest? African Americans
are vocation oriented.
Educational needs of AfricanAmericans (and others)
Visual learning style, not auditory
Hands-on learning, active learning
Cooperative learning (group learning)
Peer support (study groups)
- Support for each other
• Role models (professionals)
- Want to connect with African American
scientists, engineers and mathematicians
- African American faculty
Motivating Students for
STEM Careers
• Integrate research and research related
activities into curricula.
• Studies indicate that students exposed
to research in STEM areas tend to
pursue careers and/or attend graduate
studies in these areas.
Undergraduate Research Experience
GSFC/CUNY Summer Internship Program
• Most do not include local
• NASA scientist faculty relationship
- student preparation prior
to internship
- student continues research
on home campus
Student presentation at AAS;
attended TSU/JPL Program
• Queensborough
Community College
faculty/student research
• Solar Wind Proton Flux
and its Effect on the
Earth’s Magnetosphere
and Ionosphere
• Solar events and related
fluctuations in the
interplanetary magnetic
• Composition of the solar
• Tracking of solar storms
• LaGuardia Community
New York City College of
NASA Goddard Institute for
Space Studies
• Composition and
distribution of aerosols in
the atmospheres of Earth
and Jupiter.
• Handheld polarimeter for
aerosol validation
• HST observations of the
Great Dark Spot on Jupiter
“A handheld polarimeter for aerosol remote sensing”, Proceedings of SPIE Volume
#5888, Remote and In Situ Sensing, Polarization Science and Remote Sensing II, J. W.
Frost, F. Nasraddine, J. Rodriguez, I. Andino, and B. Cairns, August 2005
“Hubble Space Telescope Observations in 1997 of a Dark, Oval, Vortex Spot in Jupiter’s
Stratosphere”, James Frost, Juan Rodriquez and Fouad Nasraddine; 35th Annual Meeting of the
Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society, Sept, 2003.
• The City College of New
York faculty and students
research groups • Bacteria-Spore-Aerosol
Interactions in
• Planetary Aerosols
• First Planetology course
Padillla, Diomaris, and Steiner, Jeffrey. C. “Satellite Characterization of Biomass Burning:
Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) and Scanning Electron Microscope
Study of Combustion Experiments.” Eos Trans. AGU, Fall Meet. (2005).
Near Earth Objects –
Photometry and
• Faculty and student research
team at the College of Staten
• Find and track asteroids and
occasionally comets astrometry and photometry
• The identification of targets,
known and unknown, is done
by a process known
as “blinking”.
• This is an excellent topic to
introduce students to the
scientific process
COSMOS Evolution Survey
• York College, Borough of Manhattan
Community College and Hayden Planetarium
of the AMNH team (faculty and students)
- the starburst galaxies in z-COSMOS
- rich community of astronomers and resources
- provides invaluable exposure to a young scientist
• Radio Astronomy at York College - Radio
telescope saw first light Summer, 2005
- students set up instrument
Environmental Science
Medgar Evers College team
Analysis of:
• Particulate matter and VOCs
in ambient and indoor air
• Faucet tap water
• Ozone measurements in the
• Soil in playgrounds
• Handheld sunphotometers
(particular matter - optical
depth measurements)
"Urban Air: Real Samples for Undergraduate Analytical Chemistry" Hope, W. W.
and Johnson, L. P.;; Anal Chem. 2000, Volume 72, Number 13, pages 460A-467A.
Medgar Evers College satellite
science and technology program
Provide a small-scale
vehicle for atmospheric and
environmental investigations
Space mission analysis and design
AURA satellite ozone instruments ground truth
Partnerships with University of Rhode
Island, University of Vermont and
Upcoming collaborations with GISS,
The City College of New York and
LaGuardia Community College
New York & Vermont Space Grant Consortiums
Dr. Shermane Austin, MECSAT Project Director
Burst height: 30-35 km
MECSAT students, faculty and partners featured in a New York Times Podcast
Location: Itunes:NewYorkTimes:science:mappingozone
The Fabrication and Erection of
the Radio JOVE Antenna
A correlation between height and
received data
Jordan Sandrini-Cooke
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Medgar Evers College
Department of Physical, Environmental and Computer Sciences
NASA New York City Research Initiative _ NYCRI
Aeronautics, Earth and Space Science Academy - AESSA
[Radio JOVE Instructor] Kevin Brathwaite
[NYCRI Project Director] Leon P. Johnson, Ph.D.
[Administration] Fulvia Jordan
[College of Staten Island Observatory] Irving Robbins, Ph.D.
[NASA GISS Education Programs Specialist] Frank Scalzo, Ph.D.
Throughout the
many times we’ve
done the Radio
JOVE experiment,
our results have
varied because of
certain inevitable
Everywhere we
went it was nearly
impossible to
escape from
overhead planes.
Below is a graph of
the data we got on
our last and most
efficient day in the
This graph shows a radio burst occurring without a concrete definition
as to why. This eliminates the possibility that this burst is from a man
made electrical source (i.e. a plane or cargo truck).
• Formal Education
– Hands-on inquiry-based curriculum integrating
range of learning styles
– Transformation of traditional classroom
– Role models
• Informal Education
– Provide research opportunities engaging students
in investigations/scientific inquiry
– Relationship to student experience is a plus
– Role models