Dr. Shelley Phelan awarded $383,000 NIH grant to extend Fairfield University BASE Camp



Image: Shelly PhelanDr. Shelley Phelan, the Elizabeth DeCamp McInerney Professor of Health Sciences and Professor of Biology at Fairfield University, has been awarded a $383,046 NIH grant that will support for the next five years the "Broadening Access to Science Education (BASE) Camp," an annual two-week residential summer science enrichment program she designed for 24 young women from Fairfield's neighboring city of Bridgeport, Conn., who are entering their junior and senior years in high school. 

Phelan says her goal is to provide "a significant experience that will excite and inform students about the process and promise of science." A molecular cell biologist who has been awarded grants from NIH and the Research Corporation to study peroxiredoxins in breast cancer, Phelan said she was inspired early on to help uncover what caused disease and how it could be prevented.  Her hope is that the BASE Camp will inspire other young women "to pursue science and health career paths that will address public health issues."

      The BASE Camp will have three key components:

  • Research Immersion Experience, a weeklong scientific research experience thatwill engage students in exciting faculty-led research projects assisted by current undergraduate science majors. Projects will be based on faculty research expertise, covering topics in biology, chemistry, biochemistry, neuroscience, psychology, mathematics, and engineering;
  • Science and Health Careers Explorationover two days will expose students to various careers in science, technology, and healthcare, and the academic paths required to get there. It will include presentations by faculty and professionals in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) and healthcare careers, and mentorship on academic majors, courses, skill sets, and organizations that can support them in these pursuits; and
  • College Admissions Counselingover two days in which students will learn about the process and requirements for admission to college and financial aid opportunities while also engaging in mock interviews and essay writing. A student/parent information session will inform parents and integrate them into the process. Mentorship and access will be provided to students after the camp through a resource website with contacts and information on organizations, programs, and career paths introduced in the camp.

The NIH grant is supporting a program that Phelan first introduced in 2007 when, with funding from The Louis Calder Foundation and The Maximilian E. & Marion O. Hoffman Foundation, she created a one-week summer program that immersed high school students from Bridgeport in hands-on research projects in the natural sciences and mathematics. In 2010, with funding from Bank of America and the Maximilian E. and Marion O. Hoffman Foundation, she modified the program into a residential camp for female students from Bridgeport public schools, to build on other university efforts to support women in science. This program was again offered this summer with renewed funding from Bank of America.

The NIH grant is particularly significant, Phelan said, because it helps to add a vital component that takes students who have been inspired by what a career in science can offer and helps them with the practical steps that can make such a career possible. She will alternate directorship of the program with Dr. Shannon Harding from the psychology department, and will engage over ten female science faculty in the project throughout the five year period.

At Fairfield, Phelan's commitment to excellence has been recognized by her selection to hold the Elizabeth DeCamp McInerney Endowed Chair in Health Sciences since 2007. In 2010 She received the Fairfield University Faculty Recognition Award for Extraordinary Excellence in Research.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on August 11, 2011

Vol. 44, No. 16