“I’m doing well in my classes and taking interesting classes, but I’m also getting to do scientific research and other things that not everyone does. I’m learning so much and having fun doing it.”

Female college student standing in front of a research posterAt first Andrea Serrano Trujillo thought she would go to a four-year college, but then during the last week of high school she decided that starting her higher education at County College of Morris (CCM) would be “a financially more logical approach.”

She adds, “It turned out to be a blessing in disguise,” as she has gained multiple learning opportunities she had never envisioned for herself.

Serrano Trujillo’s first science professor at CCM, Dr. Teresa Birrer, encouraged her to apply to take part in the college’s Bridges to Baccalaureate (B2B) program. The program provides underrepresented minority students with extensive support, guidance and research opportunities to advance their education and assist them in transferring to a four-year institution to earn a bachelor’s degree in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) field.

“It’s perfect for me,” says Serrano Trujillo, who joined B2B in her second semester. “I love doing research. I’m so grateful for the B2B program.”

She elaborates, “I have done some pretty cool things – things you don’t get to do in a classroom.” That has included conducting research at Drew University and then being selected to present the findings at a STEM research conference at Rutgers University. At CCM, she has also been working with Dr. Maria Isaza, chair of the Biology and Chemistry department, and Dr. Dena Restaino, another professor in the department, on research studying microbes in pond water, along with receiving research training and learning in general techniques such as DNA extraction, PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and gel electrophoresis.

Serrano Trujillo originally thought she wanted to go into veterinary sciences, “which at a four-year college would have meant going straight to a pre-med program,” she says.

“Now,” she finds, “I’m interested in a different route – what I can contribute through research. I had no clue about research before I got here. It has opened my eyes to the fact that there’s more to science than being a medical doctor. I’m getting a more diverse experience than if I had gone right into pre-med.”