NM EPSCoR Spotlight: STEMAP & Dr. Mike Heagy
It's time for another NM EPSCoR Spotlight! This month we will shine our spotlight on Dr. Michael Heagy, coordinator for the STEM Advancement Program. Dr. Heagy is a Chemistry professor at the New Mexico Institute of Mining & Technology and is also on the Solar Energy research team for NM EPSCoR. He and the team are working to design more efficient photovoltaic systems and develop nanotechnology that uses solar energy to generate non-petroleum based fuels.
Where are you from, and what does it look like?
I grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The countryside is usually quite green and park-like. Because Dutch and German immigrants settled the area, one can still find Amish horse carriages on the back roads and turnpikes (old roads that travelers paid a fee to travel on). In addition to the woods and forests, there is plenty of farming going on and sadly lots of residential developments building on farmland. Lastly, Lancaster has plenty of history. City buildings date back to the Georgian era of England 1750s. In a connection to old England, the County of York lies across from Lancaster, separated by the Susquehanna River—a wide and fast-moving river that flows to the Chesapeake Bay.
What is one of your earliest and meaningful memories of your interaction/engagement with STEM disciplines?
I really got hooked by my sophomore year of college. I started learning the research ropes in the lab of a physical inorganic chemistry professor. Having worked at a grocery store in high school with rigid breaks and clocked hours, I relished the freedom of thought and time that undergraduate research afforded. I had no problem checking in on a spectroscopy dataset at 2 am, if that's what the experiment required.
What is your role with NM EPSCoR?
In addition to my research role on the Solar Energy Team, I'm one of the coordinators for the STEM Advancement Program. I work with great colleagues like EPSCoR’s Diversity Coordinator, Chelsea Chee, and we plan, recruit, and organize 10-14 undergraduate students' summer research programs. It is great to see the students grow and mature as young scientists.
STEMAP engages students from New Mexico regional universities, community colleges, and tribal colleges in research funded by New Mexico EPSCoR over the summer and continues to support students throughout the academic year. STEMAP has worked with 25 students since 2014.
What do you find works well when mentoring diverse students?
Getting to know the student and their background as soon as possible. It helps the mentor to find points of conversation and builds connections. Food is another great way to connect with a diverse group of students—I recommend potlucks as a way to get to know students. Like any mentor: try to keep the criticism constructive, and hopefully the science and intellectual challenges will be enjoyable for everyone.
To learn more about STEMAP, click here! STEMAP is also now seeking new students for STEMAP 2016 Cohort. Click here to apply online and submit by March 1, 2016!