Program gives City Colleges of Chicago students opportunity to learn molecular engineering

As a recent graduate of Harry S. Truman College, part of the City Colleges of Chicago, Stephanie Guerra hopes to transfer in spring 2024 to the University of Illinois at Chicago to pursue a bachelor’s degree in general chemistry.

Stephanie Guerra outside
Stephanie Guerra

In an effort to prepare for that transition, Guerra recently participated in UChicago’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) Introduction to Molecular Engineering course, created specifically to help more City Colleges of Chicago students transfer into four-year degree programs focused on STEM­–and to help diversify growing STEM fields.

During the three-week program at UChicago, students learned through lectures, demonstrations, and hands-on laboratory experience about molecular engineering research topics in immunoengineering, materials science and engineering, and energy and applied materials.

“Seeing how STEM professionals work has been really inspiring. And working with advisors during the course helped me prepare for a potential college transfer because we talked about what to prioritize in the application,” Guerra said.

The program’s stipend was also helpful in Guerra’s commute, and it provided her a financial buffer, she said, in order to take three weeks off from her job.

Guerra hopes to build on what she learned in the course to pursue the career she’s aspired to since she was a child: a veterinarian.

She said the program has given her the boost she needs as it can be intimidating to commit to a career that can take such a long time to finish. She’ll return to her studies more energized by the new things she’s learned. “It just makes it a bit more real for me,” Guerra said.

Guerra added that she admires that researchers and scientists can connect findings from seemingly unrelated fields and then apply them to their own studies. "I believe it's important to remember that discoveries know no boundaries. Advances in any field of science can always open new doors in another,” Guerra said.

—Article originally appeared on the Office of Civic Engagement website.