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Orange & Rockland Grant Funds Science Duo’s Stem Summer Studies Program


One of Rockland’s most prominent colleges has embarked on a new partnership with a world-famous local scientific research laboratory to develop a summer school program that inspires high school students to pursue studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

The Research Immersion in Science and Ecology (RISE) program steeps students from grades 9-12 in a wide array of scientific research disciplines, methods and outcomes during an intensive three-week program. That program takes place on the campus of Dominican College in Blauvelt.

In addition, Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades offers RISE students continuing opportunities after the program ends through the fall, including diversity panel discussions, a poster session that includes students from other programs around the state, a poster session with students from China and an invitation to Lamont’s open house in October.

Lamont-Doherty is Columbia University’s famed research center that has won renown chiefly for its earthquake and related seismic studies, but also has conducted significant work on a broad variety of important issues including climate change and environmental sustainability.

Orange and Rockland Utilities, Inc. has awarded Dominican College, the lead partner in this venture, a two-year $22,000 grant to help develop STEM skills among local secondary school students.

The curriculum rotates among three subjects: microbiology, chemistry and biodiversity.

Members of the RISE biodiversity study group found that scientific fieldwork can take place right outside their front door as they observed, recorded and took specimens from a small man-made fountain pool outside the Prusmack Science Center on the Dominican College Campus recently.

Dr. Regina Alvarez, assistant professor of biology at Dominican College and one of the RISE program’s founders, explained, “The pool’s surface, which was clear of vegetation just a few weeks ago, now is nearly covered with the aggressive water chestnut plant. There’s also some duckweed in there but for the most part, it is water chestnut.”

She added, “The students now are going to examine that phenomenon: observe it in the field, record those observations, take specimens and bring them back to the lab for further study. Then, the students will discuss conclusions they have drawn from all that data.”

The students then will inspect nearby waterways to determine if any of the water chestnut seeds have spread there also. That could mean more water chestnut plants growing in those water ways, too, quite soon.

Meanwhile, down on Route 303 in Blauvelt, Dr. Colleen Evans, assistant professor of chemistry at Dominican, was showing students from the chemistry study group – among them Rachel Del Fierro and Aaila Crouch, both from Nyack High School and Allaha Mohiby from Ramapo High School – how to test and evaluate water samples from the Sparkill Creek. 

The usual suspects popped up in the analysis including phosphates, nitrates and calcium. The students also found traces of microplastics, tiny particles of plastic that flake off manufactured goods and find their way into the ecosystem where they can exist for years without decomposition or absorption.

To learn more about O&R’s support of STEM programs and other community endeavors, visit us at:

Orange and Rockland Utilities, Inc. (O&R), a wholly owned subsidiary of Consolidated Edison, Inc., one of the nation’s largest investor-owned energy companies, is a regulated utility. It provides electric service to approximately 300,000 customers in southeastern New York State (where its franchise name is Orange & Rockland) and northern New Jersey (where it’s Rockland Electric Company), and natural gas service to approximately 130,000 customers in New York.

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