On June 11, the atrium of Leadership Hall at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) was lined with large research posters and eager middle and high school students wearing white lab coats. After two years of virtual poster presentations, students in the UMB CURE Scholars Program were excited to be back in-person at the annual CURE STEM Expo.
“It's just a different type of thrill to be back doing this STEM Expo in person,” said Lynijah Russell, a Cohort 3 scholar. “Looking at these poster presentations through Zoom doesn’t have the same feeling, so I’m excited to be here and to show what I have been working on all year.”
The UMB CURE Scholars Program is a groundbreaking science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) mentorship program that supports students starting in sixth grade and follows them through middle school and high school. The program gives the students hands-on learning experiences and opportunities to work on advanced research projects as early as middle school. The CURE STEM Expo is an opportunity for the scholars to present their research to professional researchers and health care workers, as well as their families, mentors, and peers, using college-level research posters.
While the CURE Scholars have been together in person for programming several times over the last year, the CURE STEM Expo was the first time that the scholars were able to show off their research with in-person presentations since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The research posters covered a variety of topics including prostate cancer research, anxiety in adults, and much more.
“To get the posters printed and have the scholars see their hard work physically laid out in front of them has been really exciting,” said Sequoia Wright, MS, a program managers for UMB CURE. “You can see in all their faces just how proud they are to present their research, and it’s really a great feeling.”
One of the scholars, Cyrus Croslin, a rising ninth-grade student who focused his research on climate change, said he turned down going to the movies with his friends that Saturday to present at the STEM Expo.
“I’m feeling very accomplished right now,” he said. “I put a lot of work into something that has actually paid off, and that makes me feel so good. Just looking at the posters and not at a computer screen is awesome. I’m excited that I can actually be here with my poster and get insight and feedback on my presentation. I’m sure I’m making a much better impression here than I would on a computer screen.”
The CURE STEM Expo not only showcased the hard work the scholars put in over the last year, but it also showcased the massive support system of mentors, educators, and peers the CURE Scholars Program provides to each student.
“As a working parent, it feels great knowing that my sons have someone else to depend on and guide them while growing into adulthood,” said Carlos Croslin, Cyrus’ father, who has another son in the CURE Scholars Program. “With CURE, I know that somebody is looking out for their best interests with their education and helping them grow up to be men and giving them many experiences that I didn’t have growing up.”
This year’s STEM Expo was sponsored by Becton Dickinson (BD), a medical technology company that has partnered with the UMB CURE Scholars Program many times to create remarkable research and learning opportunities for the scholars. In the past, this has included several field trips to tour their facility in Sparks, Md., professionally led science experiments, and summer research internships for the high school scholars.
After the STEM Expo, the CURE Scholars have a couple of weeks off before kicking off their summer programming July 11.