You can’t beat the learning that comes from experience. Five community college students learned a lot this summer in two STEM-related research programs.

The students presented posters about their research at the end of their research time. The poster presentations were at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, which serves as a hub for earth sciences.


Geo-Launchpad is a collaborative effort between FRCC and UNAVCO, a non-profit, university-governed group in Boulder that conducts geoscience research and education. Geo-Launchpad provides students interested in science and technology a pathway to careers in these areas. Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the program includes curriculum, seminars, and an eight-week paid internship.

The students worked with a partner on a specific project. They had mentors, seminars, and professional development opportunities throughout their summer. They connected with researchers, and some may have found their future.

Grace Donovan and Alexandrea Hurtado

Grace Donovan and Alexandrea Hurtado performed geographic information systems work for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Their project: Linking Federally Protected Wild and Scenic Rivers to the National Hydrography Dataset to Improve Data Collection and Accessibility.

“I was exposed to careers in the geoscience field,” said Grace, a FRCC student at the Boulder County Campus in Longmont. She seeks to transfer for a bachelor’s degree in environmental science. “I learned hands-on skills in a lot of new software.”

“It was a good exposure to the daily life of a USGS employee,’ said Alexandrea, who is on track for an Associate of Science from FRCC’s Larimer Campus in Fort Collins. Her next step: a bachelor’s in geography. “I learned skills and had networking opportunities.”

Santiago Cuevas and Katie Gallagher

Katie Gallagher and Santiago Cuevas worked in a USGS digital library. Their project: The Modern Library: Digitizing Historic Photographs and Field Records of the USGS.

“It’s been eye-opening,” said Katie, we will complete an Associate of Science in the fall before going on for a bachelor’s degree in environmental science. “I was exposed to thinking about how to further my education, both from my mentors and the interns I worked with. Now I’m thinking about a Ph.D.”

Santiago, an Arapahoe Community College student pursuing an Associate of Arts with designation in geology, said, “I have a plethora of new knowledge from experience and advice from geologists. I have a clearer picture of my path.” His path is to the University of Colorado-Boulder where he, too, has an ultimate goal of a Ph.D.

Research Experience for Community College Students

RECCS, or the Research Experience for Community College Students in Critical Zone Science, is administered by the University of Colorado’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) in partnership with the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research’s Critical Zone Observatory Program. Funding is from the National Science Foundation.

Jessica Ghent

Jessica Ghent, who last year was a Geo-Launchpad student, was a field researcher on a project (paywall possible). The project was titled The Impact of Ground Control Points on Drone-Based Structure-from-Motion Photogrammetry, Chalk Cliffs Debris Flow Basin.

“This summer has been invaluable to me,” said Jessica, who will earn an Associate of Science with designation in geology this year before heading to CU-Boulder. “It gave me relevant skills for a future career. This was the first time for field experience and research. I developed my critical thinking skills.”

Experience Will Pay Off

No doubt these research opportunities reinforced the decisions these students made to study a STEM-related field. The investment they made in committing to a summer research experience will pay dividends in the future.

Interested? The application window for summer 2019 opens Nov. 15, 2018. The deadline is Feb. 1, 2019.

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