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High school students recruited for STEM program this spring at Eastern

Published on February 01, 2023

High school students recruited for STEM program this spring at Eastern

Fatma Pakdil assists students
Fatma Pakdil, professor of management, assists students at last summer's big data research program.

Twelve area high school students will be recruited to conduct healthcare management data research at Eastern Connecticut State University this spring under a NASA grant awarded to faculty members Fatma Pakdil and Steve Muchiri.

The $2,000 grant from NASA’s Connecticut Space Grant Consortium (CTSGC) will help fund a program introducing students to STEM fields such as data science and analytics, mathematics and statistics, as they learn to analyze big data that are used in the healthcare industry’s decision making. The program is designed to encourage and motivate high school students to pursue STEM careers.

On five Saturdays in April and May the students will analyze data from the National Readmissions Database collected in the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project of the Department of Health and Human Services. It includes data from about 35 million hospital discharges between 2010 and 2018. The big data project will look at trends in the length of hospital stays and discharges for pneumonia patients.

students with muchiri
Prof. Muchiri works with students at last summer's research program.

A study conducted by Pakdil, professor of management, and Muchiri, associate professor of economics, using the same database to study hospital discharges of congestive heart care patients was the subject of their recent paper in the International Journal of Healthcare Management. They concluded that a longer initial hospital stay resulted in fewer readmissions.

The student project will take place at Eastern on five Saturdays: April 15, 22 and 29 and May 6 and 13 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Students will work in a computer laboratory, and online and printed library resources at Eastern will be available to them.

High school students from Willimantic and Mansfield will be recruited for the project. They can be in any grade in high school and should have a strong interest in computer science, data analytics, big data analysis, statistical analysis and healthcare management.

Students with a grade point average of 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale are eligible. They should submit a 500- to 750-word statement of interest to Pakdil at by the third week of February describing their academic qualifications, their motivation and previous experience in STEM fields, and how the project would further their future educational and research plans. Two letters of recommendation, one from a primary adviser and another from a STEM-subject teacher, are required.

Students will be notified by email by the third week of March whether they are accepted into the program.

Among the benefits to the students, Pakdil said, will be gaining an understanding of how to use online and library resources, learning basic research methodology and scientific writing skills and learning how to define and articulate research hypotheses. They will learn how to prepare big data sets and how to analyze data and interpret descriptive statistics. Other skills taught will be how to test hypotheses, interpret scientific findings, and communicate and report research results.

Pakdil and Muchiri conducted a similar project with 12 undergraduate Eastern students this past summer in Eastern’s Summer Research Institute.

Written by by Lucinda Weiss