First2 Network announces summer research experiences to benefit first-generation and underrepresented college freshmen in West Virginia

CHARLESTON, WV – Incoming college freshmen in West Virginia majoring in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) fields can gain hands-on research experience and faculty mentoring this summer. 

From June through August, First2 Network (First2) – a federal initiative within the state’s Higher Education Policy Commission – will offer immersive research experiences at eight partner sites including Green Bank Observatory, High Rocks Educational Corporation, Marshall University, University of Charleston, West Virginia University, West Virginia University Institute of Technology, West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine and West Virginia State University.

Underrepresented students are the focus of this initiative, with an emphasis on those who will be the first in their families to complete a four-year degree, known as first-generation students. These freshmen will conduct research under the supervision of faculty mentors on topics ranging from land-use impacts on water quality to computer science. Students will receive peer mentoring, leadership training and opportunities to expand their STEM network before beginning undergraduate classes. Funding is also available to support students as they continue their studies throughout the first two years of enrollment. Students are funded to serve in a variety of leadership roles within First2 including but not limited to peer mentors, ambassadors and campus club officers.

“The First2 Network is partnering with organizations across the state to support students during the first two years of their college experience by using promising practices and listening to student voices,” said Dr. Juliana Serafin, senior director of science and research at the Higher Education Policy Commission. “The First2 summer immersive program introduces students to STEM research, connects them with mentors and helps them feel comfortable in the higher education environment.”

First2’s external evaluation report has shown that students’ participation in early research experiences results in a stronger sense of identity and belonging as well as improved research attitudes, knowledge, skills and behavior.

High school seniors who are first-generation or underrepresented minorities planning to major in a STEM field or who are studying to teach secondary school in those subjects should apply at

First2 Network is an alliance of students, faculty, policymakers, industry partners and government leaders funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (INCLUDES). West Virginia Science & Research, a division of the Higher Education Policy Commission, serves as the backbone organization for the First2 Network and works together with other principal investigator organizations including Green Bank Observatory, Fairmont State University, High Rocks Educational Corporation and the WVU Center for STEM Excellence.

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West Virginia Science & Research, a division of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, provides strategic leadership for the development of competitive research opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. The office directs the National Science Foundation’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) in West Virginia, serves as the backbone organization for the NSF INCLUDES First2 Network, coordinates scientific research grants to academic institutions from federal and state agencies, and conducts outreach activities to broaden the public’s understanding of science and technology.