PRISM Helping Students Choose A Career Path In Science

Corinne O’Neill – a freshman biology major – knew that Northeastern University’s PRISM program would help enhance her time here as a student, but she didn’t know how valuable it really would be until attending classes.

It all started over the summer as she prepared to head to Northeastern University as an incoming freshman. She received an email, inviting her to apply for the PRSIM program. “I had gotten an email over the summer about the ‘Summer Preview’ experience.  (The program) starts a week before classes, and is science and math intensive… It’s the type of thing I enjoy doing.”

Northeastern’s PRISM program is one of five such programs supported by the National Science Foundation. It offers real exposure to first and second-year students interested in the fields of math, biology and physics.

The program not only shows students what it is like to do research in the various disciplines, it is used as a tool to help undeclared students choose a major. “A couple of my friends are undeclared and they are leaning toward math and science, pretty much because of the PRISM program.”

Prof. Richard Porter, Chair of the Mathematics Department at Northeastern University, says PRISM is a valuable tool for students – both declared and undeclared – because it offers realistic exposure to real-world experiences in the fields of science and math. “The PRISM program provides hands-on research projects with faculty in science. For undeclared students, PRISM can be used to explore a future in science. For students in science, PRISM provides a valuable introduction to research in science to prepare for further research with faculty and on co-op. Either way, PRISM helps students to shape their future to make a contribution.”

O’Neill came to school set on pre-med, but after taking part in the PRISM program, she has decided to change her career track. “I was really turned off on the idea of doing research when I got here, and that changed completely… I am definitely looking more at research and working in the lab. Because I have been able to do more hands-on research (with PRISM), it sort of made me reconsider decisions I had made.”

O’Neill said the big draw for her was PRISM’s focus on interdisciplinary work. “All the sciences are connected, so to be able to talk about them in that way and actually deal with them as interdisciplinary sciences, it is something that I have never experienced before.”

This kind of research is what PRISM prides itself on.

The program also gives first-year students the opportunity to work closely with research faculty here at Northeastern. ”Faculty involved in the PRISM program include Professors Alain Karma (Physics), Christopher King (Mathematics), Dagmar Sternad (Biology, Electrical & Computer Engineering, and Physics), Tom Sherman (Mathematics), Jonathan Weitsman (Stone Professor of Mathematics), and Christos Zahopoulos (Physics, Engineering, and the STEM Education Center),” Porter said.
O’Neill says she would like to continue with the PRISM program and eventually become a mentor for incoming students. “I can’t speak highly enough about this program. It’s been a fantastic experience.”

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