Classroom

Getting Access

Photo by Jon Rou

In the waters off Catalina Island, they swam with sharks. Eighteen incoming freshmen lived to tell about it. Theirs was an exercise in putting the study of science into practice, the first of many lessons for students with dreams of making a career in the field.

 

For three weeks this past summer, LMU students studied, researched and worked together as participants in the ACCESS Program (A Community Committed to Excellence in Scientific Scholarship). They visited the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, the Ballona Wetlands adjacent to the LMU campus, and Sony Pictures Imageworks in Culver City. ACCESS is designed to encourage incoming freshmen with a strong interest in science by giving them a concentrated introduction to science in action.

At the end of the course, the students sailedto USC’s Philip K. Wrigley Marine Science Center at the island’s Big Fisherman’s Cove to spend a weekend examining island and ocean ecology. They hiked Catalina’s hills to examine invasive plant species and snorkeled its waters to study leopard shark populations. After a day of collecting data, they spent an evening preparing presentations that were offered on the trip’s final morning.

Paola Monts Cota, a junior biochemistry major, was a teaching assistant for the students. ACCESS was established in the Frank R. Seaver College of Science and Engineering in summer 2010, and Cota participated in the inaugural session. The experience opened her eyes in a surprising way.

“I knew I wanted to be a pre-med student when I came to LMU,” Cota recalls, “but I was scared of the chemistry involved. Being in ACCESS helped convince me I could do the chemistry, and I became a biochemistry major.”

Edward Mosteig, associate professor ofmathematics and ACCESS director, believes one of the program’s strengths is building faculty-student relationships. “At the end of the program,” Mosteig says, “these students have significant relationships with several professors, and one another, before even stepping foot in their first fall semester class.”

Learn more about the ACCESS Program.

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