STEP students take on weighty topics in summer program

Interns in Fordham's STEP program gather with graduate assistants and staff following a presentation on Aug. 4.

Interns in Fordham’s STEP program gather with graduate assistants and staff following a presentation on Aug. 4.

Trying to figure out the correlation between greenhouse gas emissions and food production in 43 countries isn’t exactly a day at the beach.

A group of five high school students traded in a part of their summer vacations to do just that as part of a Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP) internship at Fordham University. A second group of four students studied mortality rates among developing and developed countries.

The STEP internship is a rigorous academic enrichment program for junior high and high school students that stresses collaborative study and data analysis in healthcare and other scientific fields. The interns are aided by Fordham graduate students.

“The goal is provide a rich experience in models, methods, and tools to conduct research in a university academic setting,” wrote Professor W. “RP” Raghupathi in an email.

The nine students in the six-week internship program—held in cooperation with the Gabelli School of Business’ Center for Digital Transformation, which Raghupathi heads—took to the challenge, spending weeks analyzing and interpreting data, which they presented at a gathering of fellow interns, graduate students, administrators and faculty on August 4. Raghupathi and others grilled them on their findings, helping each team bring out additional details on their research.

For Tyler Hibri, a Manhattan resident who attends the Academy for Software Engineering near Union Square, the STEP program has proved to be valuable. His interaction with graduate students and the ability to work with large sets of data are highlights. Hibri worked on the greenhouse gas presentation.

“It’s something I’d like to put on my résumé and show colleges that I did this,” Hibri said.

In the end, Hibri and his fellow student researchers said the data they analyzed indicated a somewhat counterintuitive relationship between greenhouse gas emissions and food production: Countries with higher levels of emissions actually produced more. Their colleagues in the second group, which studied healthcare, showed that mortality rates were higher in less-developed countries.

Both teams rounded out their presentations with recommendations for government and private action.

Their work impressed those who stopped by to hear the presentations, including Gabelli School of Business Dean Donna Rapaccioli.

“I wanted to tell you how proud Fordham is that you did this extra work,” she told the students on the morning they delivered their final reports. “You took care and dedication to work on projects that have really meaningful implications.”

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