Girls Inc. Eureka! Imparts Knowledge with Fun to Young STEM Students

ALBANY, N.Y. (July 29, 2021) — Two years ago, 12-year-old Madeline Bisceglia and her parents were on the lookout for opportunities to feed Maddy and her sister Molly’s love of STEM programs. “There were many during their early years,” said mom Colleen. By middle school, she said, opportunities seemed to disappear.

But then . . . they found Eureka!

Most fortunately, they found the four-week Girls Inc. Eureka! during a pre-pandemic time when, for a second summer, it was being hosted on campus at UAlbany. “Maddy came back from camp at UAlbany with a love of the University and an overwhelming desire to attend UAlbany,” said Maddy’s father, Patrick.

A tall man in a plaid shirt stands next to a much shorter smiling girl, with UAlbany's Minerva logo on the wall behind them
Unal Tatar of CEHC and his Eureka! program intern Maddy Bisceglia from Troy High. (Photo by Colleen Bisceglia)

This is now the fourth summer, beginning in 2018, that the College of Arts & Sciences hosted Girls Inc. Eureka! Four departments — Atmospheric & Environmental Sciences (with contributions from ASRC and NYS Mesonet), Physics (ChoreoPhysics), Psychology, and Mathematics & Statistics — each offered a one-week instructional program to first-year Eureka! students. Students in the second year are taught by faculty from the departments of Psychology, Physics, Electrical & Computer Engineering, and Mathematics & Statistics.

“The Eureka! program is amazing!” said Maddy, who said she particularly liked her year one, in 2019, when the UAlbany summer camp was an in-person experience. “My group of girls and I all learned about different science branches from the professors.”

“Maddy had a-once-in-a lifetime experience at the Eureka! camp in 2019,” said Colleen Bisceglia. “She worked with UAlbany professors to understand weather using virtual reality, danced to use her body to understand physics and worked in a real science lab, all while making lifelong friends. The UAlbany campus and staff have been exceptionally generous and accommodating for camps, activities and events.” 

Maddy found great value as well in year two’s camp, though virtual. This year, year three, has allowed her to engage with fellow camper Emmy Lamb in an internship with Unal Tatar, assistant professor in the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity. “I really like the Cybersecurity branch,” Maddy said. “Professor Tatar and research assistant Omar Keskin are always glad to answer any questions we have and to show us how to complete the tasks.”

Now a sophomore at Troy High School, Maddy said she has loved the entire Girls Inc. Eureka! experience. She noted the guidance of Eureka! Albany Site Manager Kelly Mucci, who found Maddy and Emmy Lamb the internships with Tatar. Maddy said Mucci mines the interests of each girl in the program to find their academic and perhaps career interests. In Maddy’s case, it was computer science and cybersecurity, including the skill of coding.

“One of the classes I have lined up for my sophomore year is Java and that is because of this internship, which made me even more interested in code/security,” said Maddy. “I am thinking about cybersecurity possibly being a career for me.”

Such stories of inspiration are common for Girls Inc. Eureka! which began in 1937 as the Schenectady Girls Club and remains a free and unique 5-year program, providing girls with an accessible introduction to STEM, personal development, sports, mentorship and career exploration.

“The pandemic challenged our ability to experience the kinds of ‘hands-on’ learning that comes with being on a university campus.” said Jeanette Altarriba, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “We’re so pleased that this year, UAlbany was able to host students on campus, providing multiple opportunities to interact with learning environments and researchers, live and in person.”

The program will have its culminating ceremony today in the Performing Arts Center, which includes poster presentations in the PAC Lab Theatre, with formal presentations starting around 10:45 a.m. in the Recital Hall.

Sponsors of Girls Inc. Eureka!, in addition to UAlbany, include SEFCU, Applied Materials of Albany, M&T Bank and Key Bank. 

Faculty interested in working with Girls Inc. students can contact Assistant Dean for Public Engagement Deb Privott.