The nonprofit Station1—founded by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2016—has selected two Santa Monica College (SMC) students and one SMC alum for its Station1 Frontiers Fellowship (SFF), a fully-funded ten-week education, research, and internship experience focused on socially-directed science and technology.

Selected after a competitive application/interview process and out of hundreds of applicants, environmental engineering major Grace Jimenez will intern at Amherst, MA-based technology startup company Elateq which focuses on the development of advanced electrochemical water treatment technology for the simultaneous removal of pathogens, organic, and inorganic contaminants. Engineering major Ahmad Rizwan will intern at the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure, which focuses on the design and construction of sustainable, resilient, and equitable civil infrastructure that combats climate change, cuts greenhouse gas emissions, creates local jobs, and enhances human wellbeing.

And SMC to UC Berkeley transfer alum Elliot Hong will intern at Oakland-based Climate TRACE, a global coalition of nonprofits, tech companies and universities created to make meaningful climate action faster and easier by tracking greenhouse gas emissions with unprecedented detail and speed.

The nonprofit higher education institution Station1 has been paving pathways of opportunity through a new model of learning and research: socially-directed science and technology. Station1 seeks to interrogate, understand, and shape technologically-driven societal impact towards more equitable, just, ethical, and sustainable outcomes.

As Station1 fellows, Jimenez, Rizwan, and Hong will receive a competitive living expenses stipend and fully-funded instructional costs; participate in exciting internship research projects in emerging fields of science and technology; engage with a shared curriculum focused on socially-directed science and technology; interact with instructors, researchers, and mentors across diverse scientific, technological, and scholarly disciplines and fields; gain leadership, personal and professional experience through the research internship, an inclusive leadership institute, and a formal professional advancement curriculum; receive individualized and customized information, advising, and guidance on academic and career pathways; and as Station1 alumni will become part of a network of exceptional professionals in the Station1 community beyond the program’s completion.

“There are so many ways Santa Monica College has helped me—financially to academically to emotionally,” said Grace Jimenez. “SMC has become my safe space and through the college I have been able to get so many scholarships, internship opportunities, and great networking opportunities. When I got accepted for the Station1 internship, I felt like all the work I’ve been doing, all the persistence I’ve had to continue this degree was finally validated and that there were people out there who genuinely saw my potential! Getting this internship has changed my life for the better.”

Ahmad Rizwan, who like Jimenez plans on transferring this coming fall, says that community college was not in his plans. The COVID-19 pandemic had him rethinking options, however, as he realized that the flexible online education option SMC offered would give him the same quality, “on top of SMC being the #1 transfer college to the University of California, Loyola Marymount University, and USC, and all the vast opportunities the college provides.”

“It turns out, I was right,” adds Rizwan, describing how he joined Santa Monica College’s STEM/Science Research Initiative and the SMC EOPS Program the summer he enrolled, and finding ways to network and connect with professor and counselors online. “SMC’s STEM counselors Marian Bagamaspad and Sheridan McArthur helped me get accepted to the College Field Biology Alliance (CCFBA) at UCLA where I published research regarding bird behavior in my local park.”

Rizwan says he didn’t know how to feel about even applying to Station1 Frontiers Fellowship Program. “The thought of being mentored by globally recognized professionals from MIT was intimidating,” he says. “However, when I got accepted, I could not believe how I felt! The thought of being selected from hundreds of applicants seemed crazy to me. I felt excited, nervous, and ambitious, knowing that I was selected for a reason. The long four months of waiting to be accepted was finally over, and I could not believe it!”

Rizwan added that he has had to work hard for such an opportunity. “It took a lot of personal motivation and dedication to be at the point that I am today,” he said. “I am grateful that SMC provided me with the academic grit needed in higher education.”

Vanan Yahnian, SMC’s STEM Manager, stated that SMC has been partnering with Station1 since 2019. Former participants include Kelvin Martinez & Mariamawit Jembere (2019), and Justin Hong (2021), and SMC alum Nhut Nguyen (2019) who was selected after transferring to a four-year university.

“We are thrilled that this prestigious, forward-thinking program has selected Grace Jimenez and Ahmad Rizwan, as well as UC Berkeley transfer/alum Elliot Hong” said Dr. Kathryn E. Jeffery, SMC’s Superintendent/President. “They exemplify the excellence and promise of SMC’s students who work hard despite so many obstacles, and represent those who will change the landscape of a hopefully more diversified STEM industry in the near future.”

In addition to Station1, SMC’s STEM students have interned at NASA-JPL, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, UCLA’s Undergraduate Research Center, USC’s Mangul Lab, UC Berkeley, Cal Poly Pomona, Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI), Base11 (which has placed students at UC Irvine, Caltech, USC, & the Smithsonian). Santa Monica College offers options for study in numerous STEM fields including biology, pre-medicine biology, chemistry, earth science, computer programming, physics, engineering, mathematics, and much more.

The U.S. Department of Education—through its Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) STEM and Articulation Program—awarded Santa Monica College a third consecutive five-year grant totaling nearly $5 million dollars ($4,944,951) specifically for its Engage, Succeed, and Advance in STEM (ESA-STEM) project. Through this grant, SMC will serve Hispanic and lower-income students majoring in STEM by providing outreach events, STEM Makerspace programming, establishing an application-based program called “Maximizing Achievement in STEM”—“MÁS” in short (for “more” in Spanish)—for underrepresented STEM students, among other activities. To learn more about SMC’s STEM program, visit smc.edu/STEM

Submitted by Grace Smith