In our increasingly digital world, it is important to graduate more students majoring in science, technology, engineering and math. Our nation’s competitiveness depends on the genius and dedication of tomorrow’s scientists, engineers and innovators. Yet today, less than 40 percent of American students pursue STEM fields, and there’s an insufficient pipeline of teachers skilled in those subjects. At Hood, we’re giving STEM students the hands-on experience and liberal arts training they need to fill 21st-century jobs. And with a $1.45 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program,* we are empowering future teachers to spread their excitement for STEM.
By George Dimitoglou, D.Sc., Associate Professor of Computer Science and Director of the Center for Computer Security and Information Assurance
We are a connected, digital society that depends heavily on networks, databases and other digital systems to operate. Almost every aspect of our lives, from the most basic tasks at the workplace to our personal communication and social interactions, to the way we shop and the tools we use to study and learn, depends on some form of electronic interaction or data exchange. These digital environments are practical, useful and fast, but in our excitement to use, leverage and widely deploy them, we have forgotten to secure them.
Patricia M. Crowell ’04, M.S.’08 is in her 14th year as a STEM educator. Thirteen of those have been spent at Tuscarora High School, where she teaches primarily 10th grade biology.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s in environmental biology at Hood.
“STEM education is vital to the future of our country as it teaches children important skills that could be useful in any career path, even when we are trying to prepare students for careers that might not yet exist,” Crowell said.
Experiential learning is a hallmark of a Hood education, and for budding scientists and technologists there is no shortage of opportunities. Located in a hive of top R&D firms, biotech and pharmaceutical companies, and nearby federal and private laboratories, Hood is well connected to the best. No company has been more connected with Hood than Leidos Biomedical Research, Inc. Together, Hood and Leidos Biomed are turning connection into opportunity and launching initiatives that will benefit Hood students and faculty, Leidos Biomed employees, and the larger Frederick community.
Trained in the liberal arts and equipped with a Hood master’s degree in biomedical science, John-Paul Denson is doing his part in cancer research at Leidos Biomedical Research, Inc.
Denson works with RAS genes, which cause about 30 percent of all human cancers. The overall goal of his program is to better understand and target cancers driven by mutations in the RAS pathway.
“We have all been affected by cancer, whether personally or somebody close to us, so once I got a chance to work towards helping fight this awful disease it hooked me,” Denson said. “It’s very motivating and rewarding to even contribute a small portion to the large and amazing cancer research community.”
When Denson first joined NCI/SAIC Frederick (now Leidos Biomedical Research) he knew he wanted to take advantage of the educational assistance program.
“Hood was convenient since I lived and worked in Frederick, but its biomedical science program also had a great reputation when I asked around to my work colleagues,” he said.
Antonio Punzo is using his bachelor’s degree in computer science as a program analyst at Leidos Biomedical.
He is responsible for developing, maintaining and enhancing software that is used by several government research laboratories. Many of his projects require processing and tracking subjects, samples and studies that involve massive amounts of data, which must be processed and retrieved in a short amount of time.
“As a developer, my main goal is to develop software that will deliver fast and accurate data to the user, while providing flexible and easy-to-use tools to enhance their work performance,” he said.
As a developmental scientist at Leidos, Rachel Beyer provides support to the National Cancer Institute Surgery Branch, a pioneering laboratory in the field of cancer immunotherapy (the use of the human immune system to treat cancer).
Her specific role is to ensure that patient cells that have been modified in the laboratory are safe for infusion into the patients. She coordinates and manages the testing required for safety by the FDA, and she investigates potential alternative ways to modify a patient cell in the lab, which may be more safe than what is currently used.
“I am part of a large team that conducts first-in-human clinical trials to investigate new therapeutic options in immunotherapy,” said Beyer. “We are always looking for ways to improve the process of engineering cells for immunotherapies as well as ensuring the safety and rigor of the processes since these are the patient’s cells that are modified and administered back to the patient.”
Now in her ninth year at the company, Lauren Procter first found her way to Leidos Biomedical Research, Inc. during her senior year when she completed an independent study with professor of biology Craig Laufer, Ph.D.
“I gained hands-on research experience while supporting Dr. Laufer’s research on pectinolytic enzymes for biofuel production from sugar beet pulp,” she said. “Nearing graduation, I spoke to Dr. Laufer about career paths and he was able to connect me with Dr. Dominic Esposito, a scientist at Leidos Biomedical Research (formerly, SAIC-Frederick).”
By Drew Ferrier, professor of biology and the director of the Coastal Studies Program at Hood College
You’ve been reading a lot about different jobs within various STEM fields. Many STEM disciplines have characterized the environmental issues that plague the Chesapeake Bay and many are needed to come up with a solution.
First, a little background. Noticeable declines in water quality and important living resources in the 1960s and ’70s prompted in-depth ecological investigations of the Bay. By the mid-1980s, scientists had a very good idea of the primary issue; runoff of fertilizers (nitrogen and phosphorus) and sediments from human activities—such as agriculture and urban and suburban development—enriched the Bay and led to over-growth of floating, microscopic algae. There was too much algae to be processed by filtering organisms like oysters, so the algae sank to the bottom, and was decomposed by bacteria, consuming all of the water’s dissolved oxygen. In turn, these damaged bottom habitats, as well as parasitic diseases, turbid water and over-harvesting, contributed to the decline of iconic organisms that we associate with the Bay such as blue crabs, striped bass and oysters.