SPRINGFIELD, Mass.Springfield Technical Community College students recently joined hundreds of presenters from 22 universities and colleges as part of the Massachusetts Undergraduate Research Conference (MassURC).

Drew Torres with Research Poster
Drew Torres

Fifteen students from STCC were among 850 undergrads who presented their research at the conference on April 28. They created posters with information on a variety of sustainability-related topics. The annual conference provides a platform for students to engage in research under the guidance of their professor, to showcase their research findings and share innovative ideas to a wide audience.

“They did such an exceptional job. Everybody in the audience was in awe of their findings,” said Reena Randhir, a biology professor who teaches World Food Habits & Sustainability at STCC.

In interviews, three of Randhir’s students discussed their work and what the accomplishment meant for them.

STCC student Thalia Babetti conducted research on how certain diets can affect the environment and contribute to climate change.

“I realized that a diet filled with meat and dairy products leaves almost double the carbon footprint than the plant based diet leaves,” said Babetti, who studied how food is processed and transported.

Salma Wangamati

She came from Lebanon to the United States in 2019, a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic was declared. “I didn’t get the high school experience,” she said. “That’s why participating in this research project helped me communicate with others and get out of my comfort zone as a person from overseas.”

She chose STCC because she heard the biology program has a strong reputation. Babetti hopes to transfer to UMass Amherst after she earns her associate degree from STCC.

Another STCC student who participated in the research conference, Salma Wangamati, is also studying biology and hopes to one day become a doctor. Born and raised in Kenya, Wangamati said her father urged her to go to STCC. He took classes at STCC, and even had Randhir for a professor.

“My dad is a nurse,” she said. “He told me STCC is a good way to ease into the (higher education) system.”

Wangamati who conducted her research on gene editing to save crops, said she enjoyed the smaller classes at STCC and interaction with professors. “It was good for me to come out of my shell and speak more,” she said. “I had a chance to tutor other students.”

Thalia Babetti

Randhir said she works closely with her students and encourages them to participate in projects such as MassURC. Their research at STCC can help them build not only their confidence, but their resumes.

One of Randhir’s students, Drew Torres, won first prize for his research poster titled “Virtual Water: A Key to Sustainable Food Systems and Climate Action.”

“It took a lot of sleepless nights,” said Torres, who graduated from STCC in the spring of 2023 and has been accepted into the Accelerated Second degree in Nursing program at Elms College. “It was something that I didn’t have to do, but my professor pushed me to do it, and I’m glad she did,” Torres said. “She told me, ‘I believe in you,’ and that this will impact my future. Through the whole process, she was by my side. She truly deserves all the credit for this whole entire process.”