Bhattacharya Offers Specialized STEM Training To 250 Needy Students

NEW YORK (TIP): Over 250 under privileged students from lower strata of the society studying in eighth grade and above were inducted to undergo a one-year program to provide hands on experience on research in myriad fields in science, technology, math and engineering (STEM) stream.

The students, drawn from 75 schools in New York City will work under mentors in leading Ivy League university research labs and centers such as Cornell and Columbia, institutes of higher learning such as Memorial Sloan Kettering and NASA to pursue careers in STEM stream after their graduation. The ambitious project of Harlem Children’s Society (HCS) founded by Indianorigin researcher and scholar Dr. Satyajit ‘Sat’ Bhattacharya from Kolkatta has benefited more than 2500 local economically backward and minority children so far by providing them with hands on experience on research in the past 13 years.

Of the 250 students, about 40 percent are African-Americans, 40 percent are Hispanics and rest is immigrants from the lower strata of the society. Of the total students chosen, 65 percent are women. The students have been paid stipend up to $1500 a month for the program and the benefit of the internship range from helping prevent school drop outs to developing a scientific inquest into the young minds, he said.

Bhattacharya, who is a renowned Research Scientist of Molecular Cancer Genetics at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, started this internship program 13 years ago when he moved to New York after completing his education in India. The skill-based learning program consists of hands on experience in research labs and scientific centers for four to five days in a week, attending lectures by Nobel Laureates and scientists, presentation of research papers to develop aptitude in conducting independent research and higher learning.

The students find it easier to get jobs after their graduation thanks to their hands on experience in various disciplines. The practical training is followed up with web-based online training courses. The students are chosen from poor background struggling to complete high school education. The students often work in labs part-time after school and full time in summer and spring breaks.

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These internships helps the students to get into top universities and Ivy League institutions such as Cornell, Columbia, Stanford, MIT, Dartmouth, Penn State and others and also helps them in getting credit for their graduate studies. “It’s an open-ended program and it prevents school dropout rates very much. In the absence of scholarship they are forced to get jobs at the compulsion of their parents, Bhattacharya said.

The broad spectrum of cutting-edge topics on which students have engaged in research so far include aerospace engineering, bio medicine and bio informatics, computer modeling, cybernetics, forensics, genetic engineering, green architecture, HIV/AIDS, nanotechnology, protein modeling, renewable energy among others. Students are also taught financial management and basic skills such as communication, public relations and resume writing.

A number of school principals, science teachers, scientists, engineers and doctors from leading institutions – have joined in to support the endeavor of developing scientific pursuit among children. This is a very unique program sans classrooms as the students are placed as understudy in the network of 30,000 scientists, researchers and professors. The HCS flagship program was taken to Native American reservation in Hopi in Arizona where 15 students are chosen for skill-based development training.

The students will be taught modern and scientific farming to help their parents besides basic healthcare training. The program was launched in 2004 and over 200 students from the Reservation were trained so far. Some of the alumnus of the program has reached new heights in their career. One such case is a student doing his MD/PhD program at Harvard Medical School in Boston thanks to his internship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital.

The students are chosen on the basis of merit, ambition and those hailing from economically weaker background of the society, he added. At the induction ceremony of the Harlem Children Society Class of 2013 held in Rosenthal Pavilion, Kimmel Center of New York University an array of speakers from public life heaped praise on the contribution of HCS to the society.

New York Comptroller John Liu, New York State Democratic and Legislative Leader Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Council Member and Manhattan Borough President Candidate Robert Jackson, New York Mayoral Candidate Joseph Lhota, New York City Public Advocate Candidate Reshma Saujani, 2013 National Spelling Bee champion Arvind Mahankali, UN Women Senior Policy Adviser Sumantara Guha and other dignitaries complimented Dr Bhattacharya and said HCS has provided a new ray of hope to underprivileged children.

Pam Kwatra and Eric Kumar presented a proclamation from New York City Public Advocate and Mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio on the occasion. Students from the Hopi Reservation and also from Tanzania, Ethiopia, India and Nepal were inducted online and participated live thro video conference.

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