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NOVA hosts successful summer STEM academy for high schoolers

Students at the academy
High school students conduct DNA analysis during the summer STEM academy at Northern Virginia Community College.
President Ralls at the academy
NOVA President Scott Ralls (wearing yellow tie) with NCSI summer STEM academy faculty and students.

Seventy-five high school students from across Northern Virginia explored a forensics mystery during a week-long summer STEM academy at Northern Virginia Community College. The students learned cutting-edge laboratory techniques during the camps held at NOVA campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Manassas and Woodbridge.

To solve a fictitious crime, the students engaged in activities that ranged from DNA analysis of “evidence” to “interrogation of suspects.” Bones, fibers and liquids were analyzed for clues with such advanced equipment as scanning electron microscopes. To add authenticity, NOVA police officers talked to the students about interrogation techniques. On the last day, the students presented their work and enjoyed a reception for family and friends with congratulatory remarks from NOVA President Scott Ralls.

The Northern Virginia Community College Educational Foundation and the Perkins Foundation provided support for the summer STEM academy, and nearly 40 faculty members representing biology, chemistry, physics, geology, cybersecurity and administration of justice contributed to the academy’s success.

The summer STEM academy was developed by the NOVA Collegewide STEM Initiative (NCSI) chaired by Ia Gomez, associate dean of the Manassas Campus Science and Applied Technologies Division. During the past two years, the NCSI team has been dedicated to providing cutting-edge technology, standardizing equipment and enhancing the curriculum across all NOVA campuses.

“Our goal is to provide the best educational opportunities for NOVA students by exposing them to state-of-the-art equipment, and equipping them with hands-on skills and knowledge that will make them competitive in the STEM workforce,” Gomez said.


To learn more, contact Gomez at igomez@nvcc.edu.


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Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through the Extended Learning Institute. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.