Conversations: Researching Climate Change in the First Year Seminar

The three accomplished women in conversations with their former NSF professors all aspire to careers in science. “Do you hear that click?” asks graduating LaGuardian Josephine Elumeze, Zooming in from her home in Nigeria to talk with her New York-based research mentor Professor Nathan Hosannah (MEC). In the absence of a steady power source, Josephine is accustomed to the constant, crisis-pitched sound of petrol and diesel-powered generators that, according to recent estimates, number between 22 million and 60 million, and run everything from living room lights to the dress-maker’s sewing machine and the corner photo-copy shop. She didn’t know how she knew,  yet “I knew that you could use the sun to generate power. Why can’t we just use it to have stable power in this society instead of, like, no constant power?”

Curiosity, the scientist’s distinguishing trait, is accompanied by a drive to identify problems and imagine solutions tested by research. These qualities animate the conversations between Josephine Elumeze and Professor Hosannah; second-semester Pamela Santos and Professor Richa Gupta (NS); and Columbia University-hopeful Veronica Martinez and research mentor Professor Ingrid Veras (NS). In particular, it was the NSF Newtown Creek Water Project that opened Veronica’s eyes to the relation between ecology and environmental justice.  “It was here that I fell in love with research,” she recalls. “This class was basically the starting point of my research journey at LaGuardia and hopefully for the rest of my career.” Brazilian-born Pamela Santos, recipient of a Learning Communities Showcase award, describes the preparation afforded by her NFS learning community and her success in second semester science courses. “It is incredible how advanced I was in my chemistry class,” she recalls. “It was much easier for me to plot graphs and read them. I can analyze data and other experiments to a certain degree now.” Just a year behind Josephine and Veronica, Pamela hopes to follow their examples, participating in opportunities like the CUNY Research Scholars Program and doing authentic, hands-on experimentation.

Under the guidance of Professors Gupta, Hosannah, and Veras, First Year Seminar Students learn how to be scientists, experiencing high-stakes integrative, collaborative, and project-based learning. The conversations offered here reflect NSF pedagogy and, most singularly, a relation of generosity and respect between teacher and student. Posing brief and probing questions, Professors Gupta, Hosannah, and Veras listen attentively as the young women respond at length and with detailed passion about the uses of “restorative” science to repair, as Ms. Santos said, “the disrupted relation between organisms and their local environments.” We invite you to listen, too.

Check out the conversations on YouTube:
Josephine Elumeze and Professor Hosannah (MEC)
Pamela Santos and Professor Richa Gupta (NS)
Veronica Martinez and Professor Ingrid Veras (NS)