Year after year since fall 2009, the Garden State Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (GS-LSAMP), an initiative of the National Science Foundation (NSF), has inspired minority undergraduate students to study and pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This year is no exception as two members of Rutgers University–Newark’s (RU-N) Class of 2017, Albert A. and Tonian Robinson, seek to add doctoral degrees to their educational accomplishments.
In the fall, Albert will attend Columbia University to study mathematics education as a fellow in the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship program, while Robinson will head south to study geophysics at the University of South Florida as a fellow in the Bridges to the Doctorate Fellowship program. Both credit their acceptance into their respective programs to the support of GS-LSAMP and the unwavering leadership of Rutgers University Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor Alexander Gates, the executive director of GS-LSAMP since its inception.
A native of Newark, New Jersey, Albert is the son of Ghanaian immigrants who divorced when he was five years old. Currently a resident of Maplewood, New Jersey, Albert is the first in his immediate family to earn a bachelor’s degree. He chose RU-N as the first stop on his postsecondary journey for a host of reasons – its proximity to home, affordability, diversity, esteemed faculty, scholastic rigor, and leadership and service opportunities – a decision for which he has no regrets.
A self-described “quadruple minority” – an African-American gay male who grapples with a learning disability and several health challenges – Albert said support from the faculty and staff at RU-N’s College of Arts and Sciences and GS-LSAMP allowed him to embrace all of his identities and focus on two of his passions, mathematics and leadership. When he’s not shouldering the sometimes unwieldy course load of dual majors in applied mathematics and economics and a minor in business administration, Albert serves as president of the RU-N chapters of both the Golden Key Honor Society and the Student Outreach Council and engages in many other extracurricular activities that enrich local and global communities.
“Garden State LSAMP has made me a better student, scholar, and leader,” remarks Albert as he reflects on his growth in the program. “It has helped me learn more about STEM research, improved my technical abilities, introduced me to an experienced group of role models, and created a pathway to graduate school.”
After earning his doctoral degree, Albert aspires to teach math at a secondary school in New Jersey or New York. Until then, he’ll continue with his one-on-one math tutoring for all grades and levels, including standardized testing.
Like Albert, Robinson is the first in her immediate family to earn a bachelor’s degree, and has a passion for her field of study and much praise for GS-LSAMP and its faculty and staff. Not wanting to venture too far from home, the Paterson resident was drawn to RU-N’s easy commute and the highly regarded environmental science program of the College of Arts and Sciences.
Robinson began her freshman year at RU-N in 2012, just two years after immigrating to the United States from Jamaica. During her second year at RU-N, she joined GS-LSAMP and eventually became a research student in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences under the tutelage of Gates and several other professors. Robinson, who majors in geology and minors in environmental science, has assisted in microbial enhanced oil recovery research experiments and characterization of hydrogeological properties of rock cores using geophysical properties.
Nominated by Gates to showcase her summer research at the Research Experience for Undergraduates Symposium in Washington, DC, Robinson’s work examined the relationship between clay content and magnetic susceptibility. Participation in the symposium enabled her to learn how to create poster presentations, present her data, and network with professionals in her field.
While Robinson loves her coursework, it comes with its challenges. “I struggled to maintain a respectable GPA,” she confesses. Ironically, it’s the work she does for GS-LSAMP and the time she spends in the lab (at least five hours a day) that elevate her grades. “It forces me to spend more time on campus, which allows for more time and an environment that is conducive for studying.” She’s made the dean’s list for three consecutive years.
Unlike Albert, Robinson wishes to launch her career in a warmer climate. While she’s eager to study geophysics, she does not want to limit it to one particular area. She desires variety in her studies. The Bridges to the Doctorate Fellowship program will provide mentoring, funding, and help with the mechanics of writing and getting published.
“It’s a lot like Garden State-LSAMP,” Robinson smiles.
Albert and Robinson are featured in the GS-LSAMP student spotlight video.