Tri-Institutional Outreach Committee – a culture of science outreach
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Ifé Akano, Co-Chair
Gianna Stella, Co-Chair
Alexa Strauss, Co-Chair
Jaina Wollowitz, Co-Chair
TPCB students are engaged in a wide range of outreach programs to bring the wonder and power of science to underserved communities and to support the next generation of scientists.
The Tri-Institutional Outreach Committee (TOrC) is led by Ifé Akano (Weill Cornell Pharmacology, David Lab), Ilana Kotliar (TPCB, Sakmar Lab), Alexa Strauss (TPCB, Levitz Lab), and Gianna Stella (TPCB, Marraffini Lab). TOrC aims to make science more accessible by spreading awareness about careers in science, inspiring others to follow their passion in STEM, and providing them with resources to help them excel. In parallel, we strive to bridge Weill Cornell Medicine, Memorial Sloan Kettering, and The Rockefeller University by connecting members of the Tri-I with a common passion for outreach and mentorship.
In 2020, TOrC student leaders founded the Tri-I Mentorship Initiative (TIMI) to empower those interested in applying to graduate programs through one-on-one mentoring. Current Tri-I graduate students are paired with undergraduates or recent graduates who are applying to biomedical PhD programs. Mentors receive training and dispatch their own experiences with the application process to help mentees select schools to apply to, craft their personal statements, and improve their interviewing skills. This year, TIMI matched 79 mentor-mentee pairs and included participants from across the U.S. and 13 countries around the world. Over 65% of TIMI mentees self-identified as an underrepresented minority and/or qualify as disadvantaged by the NIH. TIMI aimes to arm its mentees with the tools necessary to be successful PhD applicants. The program has been highly effective, with 96% of U.S. students receiving at least one admission offer in 2023.
To increase the visibility of STEM outreach opportunities in NYC, TOrC launched the Tri-Institutional Outreach Fair in February 2022. Nearly 70 members of the Tri-I community came together virtually to hear presentations from 12 professional and trainee-run outreach organizations, including BioBus, the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) STEM Mentoring Programs, RockEDU, the Tri-Institutional Minority Society (TIMS) Summer Scholars Research Program (SSRP), Weill Cornell Graduate School Advancing Cornell Career Experiences for Science Students (ACCESS), and more. Attendees were also able to connect directly with outreach representatives in breakout sessions. A survey revealed that 90% of participants learned about at least one new outreach group and 50% signed up for a new volunteer opportunity. The Outreach Fair is now an annual event held each spring.
TPCB students have also taken on leadership roles in the High School Catalyst Program, a partnership between the Weill Cornell Graduate School and MSK Postdoctoral Association. The program offers hands-on biomedical research experience to New York high school students from underrepresented and underserved backgrounds. This rigorous 7-week program pairs mentees with mentors who are current graduate students, and includes an extensive program of seminars, workshops, journal clubs, and discussions, culminating in an NSF-style research proposal. The current Co-Presidents are Clare Cahir (TPCB, Marraffini Lab) and Victoria Rasmussen (TPCB, Sakmar Lab), and TPCB students Gabriella Chua, Noah Yardeny, and Charles Warren also participate on the leadership team.
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