NECC Partners with Tufts On Summer Research Program
What does Northern Essex Community College have in common with a
highly-competitive undergraduate research program at Tufts University?
A couple of things, as a matter of fact.
First, NECC graduate Phil Starks of North Andover, a biology professor at Tufts, is the director of the
10-week summer program which is administered by the Tufts biology department
with the help of a National Science Foundation Grant (NSF) that funds summer
research programs for undergraduates.
Second, in its nine years of existence, seven NECC students have been chosen to participate in the program, which brings in 10 undergraduates from across the country each summer and places them in faculty labs.
“We had over 350 applicants last year and narrowing that list down to 10 participants was a challenge,” says Starks.
NECC student Steve Brown of Andover, who graduated in 2012 with high honors and a liberal arts degree, made the cut, and, as a result, he spent last summer with Starks researching the European wool-carder bee and its interaction with local plants.
Brown’s team looked specifically at how plants can emit toxic chemicals when attacked by insects, studying how this particular bee responds to those chemical emissions.
After continuing his education in biology at a four-year college, Brown plans to work as an environmental research scientist.
Starks, who graduated from Harvard and Cornell after earning an associate degree from NECC, has championed the hiring of Northern Essex students, believing that community college students are ideally suited for the program.
Fifteen percent of students in the research program are currently community college students, and Starks hopes to increase those numbers. He has met with NECC President Lane Glenn to discuss his goals and Glenn has “enthusiastically supported the program,” according to Starks.
“As an NECC graduate, I am happy to see NECC students excel,” says Starks.
Over the years, six NECC students in addition to Brown have participated in the program, and all have gone on to further education and/or careers in science. Two of the six transferred from NECC to Tufts.