STCC student meets research challenge
Attending classes, studying and completing degree requirements have been more difficult than Sebastian Sanchez imagined when he came to the United States from the Dominican Republic three years ago. He believes the struggle is well worth the effort.
“I don’t want to work in a factory for the rest of my life” is how the second-year Springfield Technical Community College student summed it up in an interview shortly after he finished his finals in December.
“I know that college is the only path I can take to make something of myself,” said Sanchez, a Springfield resident. Sanchez, 20, is working toward his associate degree in health science and considering pursuing a certification to be a sterile processing technician.
Meanwhile, he has his hands full with classes at STCC. Over the summer he took three courses, including one under the auspices of the STEM Starter Academy, which aims to draw more students to the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The five-week methods course introduces students to the concepts of quantitative and qualitative research in scientific inquiry and calls for participants to undertake literature reviews for research purposes. It required a final research report in either written or poster form.
“I was nervous,” he said of the course.
Students choose their own research topic, and Sanchez settled on the timely subject of coronavirus, completing a research poster titled “Analysis of Factors and Impacts of COVID 19 in Massachusetts.”
His research objective was to study the dynamics of the emerging COVID 19 pandemic, evaluate disease spread and suggest mitigation strategies.
The most impressive contribution of his research was that Sanchez hypothesized some facets of the COVID-19 during the initial stages of the pandem-ic, said Reena Randhir, STCC professor of biology and director of the school’s STEM Starter Academy.
Sanchez hypothesized the following: The rate of spread is non-linear over time; Multiple factors contribute to the spread; and social distancing, testing and wearing masks will help manage the spread.
Professor Timothy Randhir, a University of Massachusetts faculty member who also teaches as an adjunct at STCC, deftly guided him through the research process with encouragement and support.
“He helped me a lot — every question I had he was there,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez said when he got started on the coronavirus research he was overwhelmed and intimidated, but with help from Timothy Randhir, he persevered.
“What should I talk about more? What should I talk about less?” Sanchez asked Randhir, who provided advice that improved the final product.
“I learned more about COVID-19,” Sanchez said.
Meanwhile, Reena Randhir encourages all students to submit their work for consideration at the University of Massachusetts Undergraduate Research Conference. The conference draws submissions from students across the state. For last year’s conference, 18 STCC students’ abstracts were accepted but the conference was canceled due to the pandemic restrictions.
In its 27th year at UMass, the conference, planned for April 23, will be entirely virtual this time around. This year’s abstract submission deadline is March 21.