Rider Early Lab Experience Gives Science Majors 'Competitive Edge'

As part of Rider University's Freshman Science Honors Program, qualified incoming freshmen are invited to start independent research during the second semester of their first year.

Editor's Note: The following is a news release issued by .

Whether an undergraduate student is applying to medical school, a doctoral program or a pharmaceutical company, recruiters often say putting “research experience” on a résumé sets a candidate apart from the rest. Through the Rider University Freshman Science Honors program, science majors are gaining valuable experience in the laboratory, and ultimately, a competitive edge in their desired career fields.
As part of the Freshman Science Honors Program, qualified incoming freshmen are invited to start independent research during the second semester of their first year. Students are selected based on their high school GPA (3.5 or higher) and SAT Math scores (600 or better). Participating students are paired with faculty mentors representing a range of scientific disciplines. The opportunity affords students a chance to gain hands-on experience and continue research through their senior year.
Dr. Kelly Bidle, coordinator of the Freshman Science Honors program and professor of Biology, said the honors program began in the Biology department about eight years ago and has expanded to include students majoring in most of the science programs offered at Rider.
“The opportunity to start in the lab so early in your undergraduate career is virtually unheard of at most large research institutions,” Bidle said. “We, as faculty, are really vested in our research. The honors program is a win-win for faculty and students. Students get research experience. We get a set of extra hands.”
In fact, Rider’s science faculty members have received about $1 million in active research grants from the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation in the areas of immunology, developmental biology, neuroscience, environmental microbiology, and major research instrumentation.

As a result, Rider science majors working in these research labs have had the opportunity to co-author research papers and present at national and international levels.
The majority of alumni of the Freshman Science Honors Program have continued their education by enrolling in master’s and doctoral degree programs. In the last few years, graduates have been accepted to such schools as the University of California San Francisco, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Delaware and Rutgers University.
Bidle said 20 freshmen were invited to attend sessions in the fall to learn about faculty research opportunities. This spring semester, nine honors students began working in the labs. The freshman fellows and their mentors include:

  • Nicole Colossi ’15 of Flemington, N.J., a Biology and Dance dual major, and Dr. Todd Weber, associate professor of Biology and Behavioral Neuroscience;
  • Kelley DePierri ’15 of Barrington, N.J., a Biology major, and Dr. Jim Riggs, professor of Biology;
  • Shirley He ’15 of Princeton, Junction, N.J., aBiochemistry major, and Dr. Bruce Burnham, associate professor of Chemistry;
  • Danielle Minichino ’15 of Brick, N.J., a Behavioral Neuroscience major, and Dr. Kelly Bidle, professor of Biology;
  • Jen Smolyn ’15 of Manahawkin, N.J., a Secondary Education and Biology dual major, and Dr. Julie Drawbridge, professor of Biology;
  • Morgan Kandrac ’15 of Hamilton, N.J., a Chemistry major, and Dr. Alex Grushow, associate professor and chair of the Chemistry department;
  • Brandon Enalls ’15 of Somerset, N.J., a Biology major, and Dr. Bryan Spiegelberg, assistant professor of Chemistry;
  • Jaclyn Webber ’15 of Anaheim, Calif., a Behavioral Neurosciences major, and Dr. Laura Hyatt, associate dean of Sciences;  and
  • Laura Moritzen ’15 of Livingston, a Marine Sciences major, and Dr. Paul Jivoff, associate professor of Biology.


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