Friday, June 01, 2012

[467] 33 MTSU Students Near End of FirstSTEP Summer Immersion

For release:  May 31, 2012

News and Media Relations contact: Randy Weiler, 615-898-5616 or
FirstSTEP contact: Dr. Chris Stephens, 615-494-8957 or

33 MTSU students near end of FirstSTEP Summer Immersion

MURFREESBORO — Thirty-three rising MTSU sophomores and juniors are nearing the end of a three-week May journey as they increase their science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills in the FirstSTEP Summer Immersion program.

Assisted by graduate students, MTSU faculty members Drs. Bill Robertson and Daniel Erenso (physics and astronomy), B.G. Ooi and Scott Handy (chemistry), Ahad Nasab (engineering technology) and Jeff Leblond (biology) guided their teams through an intense three-week May session, which will end Friday, June 1, with a closing ceremony in Cason-Kennedy Nursing Building N116.

“The purpose of the program is to give students some depth in one area of science,” said Dr. Tom Cheatham, dean of the College of Basic and Applied Sciences. “Some research shows it helps students in all the sciences. We’re hoping that’s the case with our students, that this experience helps them in all their science classes.”

The MTSU students primarily are from middle and west Tennessee. One student is from east Tennessee.

FirstStep is a five-year, $2 million grant funded by the National Science Foundation. It is an enrichment program that provides financial and academic support for students majoring in biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering technology geosciences, mathematics and physics and astronomy.

Math faculty members Drs. Ginger Rowell and Chris Stephens serve as co-principal investigators and Brad Rudnik is FirstSTEP coordinator. Rowell is FirstSTEP director and is responsible for the daily operation of the entire grand and all the many efforts to increase STEM retention. Stephens is responsible for the daily operations of the summer immersion program. He visits the different teams across campus.

Team Erenso members include Elaura Aguilar of Spring Hill; Brooke Flanagan of Burlison; La Tonya Johnson of Memphis; and Chelsey Pennycuff, David Scott and Gabriel Welker of Murfreesboro;

Team Robertson members include Derrick Bowker of Nashville; Tina Coleman of Millington; Jessica Graves of Brentwood; Sarah Reisinger of Huntingdon; Devin Wakefield of Covington; and Darryus Yokley of La Vergne.

Team Nasab members include Jocelyn Bronner of Memphis; Chiquita Long of Chattanooga; Pedro Raudry of Sardis; Cali Stoltz of Lewisburg; and Tyler Todd of Murfreesboro.

Team Lablond members include Adam Glass of Murfreesboro; Yvonne Ejorh, Jadeah Jackson and Adanna Omatu of Antioch; TaRisha Lake of Bolivar; and Ethan Womack of Woodbury.

Team Handy members include Allison Hix of Shelbyville; Josiah Opeke of Nashville; Kayla Ray of Cordova; Nick Reszka of Murfreesboro; and Brittany Taylor of Memphis.

Team Ooi members include Markeno Lester of Arlington; Angel Navarro and Haley Williams of Murfreesboro; Tenika Prather of Selmer; and Breanna Price of Cordova.


Note: High-resolution jpeg photo is attached.


MTSU professor Scott Handy, left, observes Brittany Taylor of Memphis perform work in the chemistry lab. (Submitted photo)

            The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has recognized MTSU for its outstanding curricular engagement, community outreach and partnerships. As MTSU begins its second century of service, Pride, Tradition and Excellence remain the cornerstones of "Tennessee’s Best"! For MTSU news and information anytime, visit


For MTSU news and information anytime, visit

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