The 2023 S-STEM Scholars Meeting hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) took place in Washington, D.C., September 14-16, 2023, with about a thousand S-STEM scholars and a hundred mentors in attendance. Four Skyline College IMMERSE in STEM scholars, Abigail Jean Alfonso, Leonardo Calle, Gabriel Hapin-Aranda, and Arian Villena, attended along with Professor Emilie Hein, who went as a mentor. AAAS and NSF, including meals, transportation, and individual hotel accommodations at the venue, the Marriott Marquis, Washington, DC fully funded the trip.

IMMERSE in STEM stands for Innovative and Meaningful Mentoring to Enhance Retention, Success, and Engagement in STEM. The program is funded by the NSF S-STEM program and was established at Skyline College this past Spring 2023, welcoming its first cohort of scholars. IMMERSE in STEM scholars receive scholarships of up to $10,000 per year for up to 3 years and are paired with a faculty mentor.

The S-STEM Scholars Meeting included informative plenary sessions, career fairs, professional development workshops and poster sessions. Abigail Jean Alfonso presented a poster on “Combating Dental Disparities in Underserved Populations,” while Leonardo Calle’s poster was entitled “Big Brother” Low-Cost Room Occupancy and Traffic Low Sensor.” They connected with many scholars from other S-STEM programs and used this platform to share their ideas and research.

Professor Hein co-presented a workshop on Imposter Syndrome and two other mentors, Brandon Mitchell, Ph.D. from West Chester University (WCU) and Lee Cottrell from Pittsburgh Technical College (PTC).

All scholars were able to mingle with other scholars, attend workshops, as well as interact with some of the other faculty mentors. The chance to connect with fellow scholars and inspiring STEM professionals broadened their horizons and provided insights into potential future career paths. They also enjoyed sightseeing around Washington, D.C., with some time dedicated to museum visits.

The trip to Washington, D.C., for the S-STEM Scholars Meeting, was a transformative experience for the students, as they had a chance to combine academic growth with cultural enrichment and networking opportunities. Upon their return, they could share their experiences with the Skyline College community during a panel discussion led by Rick Hough and Emilie Hein.

Applications are now open for the second cohort of IMMERSE Scholars who will start in Spring 2024. Make sure to apply by October 15, 2023! For more information about the program, visit the IMMERSE in STEM website or contact Emilie Hein ( and Rick Hough (

This work is supported by NSF S-STEM grant award #2221696.

Authors: Abigail Jean Alfonso, Leonardo Calle, Gabriel Hapin-Aranda, Arian Villena, Emilie Hein, Rick Hough
Photo credit: Emilie Hein

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