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NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – Ten female Iraqi undergraduates from the College of Science for Women at the University of Baghdad will gain exposure to science and engineering education and equipment not readily available to women in their home country when they spend the month of July at Smith College as participants in an intensive academic program.
Smith is collaborating with the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to offer the non-degree program for the first time this year so the Iraqi students can gain experience in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and an understanding of American higher education and culture.
The program is part of the State Department’s NeXXt Scholars Initiative to encourage more young women from Muslim-majority countries to pursue STEM careers through partnerships with U.S. women’s colleges.
“Providing access to opportunities for women who would otherwise not have them was the reason Smith was founded, and educating women to be leaders around the globe is the college’s mission today,” said Sarah Craig, director of non-degree programs, who is coordinating the program.
The ten students will be accompanied by two female faculty members from the University of Baghdad. The Iraqi participants have all studied English, and Smith will provide a translator to support communication throughout the program.
Each week of the program will be structured around different pursuits. The first week, Iraqi students will participate in a rigorous research biology course, “Your Genes, Your Chromosomes,” led by Smith instructor Lori Saunders. Participants will determine their own blood types and calculate the frequencies of blood type alleles, photograph their chromosomes, and construct part of their own DNA fingerprints using the polymerase chain reaction.
During the first week of the program, the Iraqi participants will also take an engineering course on fuel cells, as well as English language lessons through the International Language Institute in Northampton.
The second and third weeks of the program will be devoted to the college’s Molecular Biology Boot Camp, an intensive lab program in which students and faculty conduct experiments in Smith’s new science and engineering facilities in Ford Hall. The course covers in-depth DNA cloning and sequencing, genomics, next-gen sequencing and bioinformatics.
During the final week of the program, students will take an American studies course.
Throughout their month-long stay, the Iraqi students will reside and dine on the Smith campus. They will visit the colleges in the Five Colleges, Inc., consortium, meet admission staff, and participate in sightseeing and cultural excursions on the weekends.
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063
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