Over the summer, a program giving underrepresented UConn and community college students an opportunity to engage in experiential learning in the University’s world-class research labs returned to Storrs. For 10 weeks, a diverse group of participants were immersed in the study of food and nutrition through a variety of laboratory and community health research projects.
Bridging the Gap II brought six students from UConn, Housatonic Community College, and Manchester Community College into the Department of Nutritional Sciences in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) to participate in this intensive program. Bridging the Gap aims to develop students’ practical research skills and deepen their knowledge of food, nutrition, and health.
“Whether they are UConn students or come from one of the regions community colleges, Bridging the Gap opens doors to experiential learning and fulfilling careers in the sciences,” says CAHNR Dean Indrajeet Chaubey. “We’re thrilled that the program has relaunched and can support students in their academic journeys.”
Participants learn to conduct experiments in a lab setting and on community health research projects for the first time. They work closely with faculty members and graduate student mentors. They also form bonds through weekly meetings, seminars, research presentations, and field trips.
The program builds confidence as well as specialize lab skills, says Adriana Suria ’24 (CAHNR), a nutritional sciences major.
“At first I was really insecure in the sense that I did not know what to expect,” says Suria. “I had no lab experience before this. I think it’s made me a more well-rounded student. I learned that it’s okay to not know anything going into a new experience.”
For Housatonic Community College student Ressi Miranda, Bridging the Gap was a first step towards a future career in experimental science.
“Through the program I met various professors studying food science,” says Miranda, a biology major. “It allowed me to learn about many facets of nutritional sciences and get career development advice as well. Now I have a game plan for what I want to do after graduation.”
Funded by a $500,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture, researchers Loneke Blackman Carr and Yangchao Luo, both from the Department of Nutritional Sciences, were excited to relaunch the Bridging the Gap program. The previous iteration of the program operated from 2016 to 2019 and supported approximately 30 students.
“Our goal is to expose these students to the wide range of careers available in the fields of food and nutrition,” says Luo. “Even though this is the second time around, it feels like it is just the beginning for Bridging the Gap and the value it provides to students around the state.”
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