2020-2021 Innovation of the Year Award Winner: Wake Technical Community College

START Undergraduate Research and Internships

Wake Tech’s Mathematics, Sciences, and Engineering faculty and staff have kept STEM academic success and career dreams alive for students in this year of pandemic by pivoting to effective virtual formats. Our START (STem Academic Research and Training) Internship program embraces Wake Tech’s vision to reach and rally around students to help all achieve their potential. START uses faculty-mentored undergraduate research as a success and retention strategy—fostering a sense of belonging and academic confidence and providing career exploration and workforce skills—to support transfer and STEM career success. Due to COVID-19, START shifted from its usual in-person format to offer interested students a combination of in-person and virtual undergraduate research experiences. In the 2020-2021 academic year, START offered 20 research areas and served over 75 students in authentic research and STEM career exploration. Partnering with the Wake Tech Foundation and its donors, START was able to provide direct student stipend support, encouraging a diverse group of students to take a chance and participate in virtual research projects.


  • Malathi Balachander, Department Head, Physical Sciences
  • Kim Fishback, Associate Department Head, Life Sciences
  • Sarah Horstman, Assistant Professor, Mathematics
  • Jackie Swanik, Associate Dean, Mathematics, Sciences, and Engineering
  • Sharon Welker, Dean, Mathematics
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