Science Research curriculum a game-changer for girls.

Ursuline students reveal how teachers empower budding scientists in an all-girls learning environment.

Unique approach sparks passion for STEM.

The fact that females are underrepresented worldwide in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields is well documented. The International Journal of STEM Education, a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to the study of STEM education, reports that the challenge for educators is finding ways to encourage more girls to choose STEM majors and careers.

Budding scientists at The Ursuline School in New Rochelle are finding a passion for STEM in the all-girls environment thanks to step-by-step guidance from highly accomplished and nurturing faculty.

Ursuline's unique approach to Science Research sparks a passion for STEM. (L-R) Christina Huerta-Stylianou ‘24, Aine O’Sullivan ‘25, and Riya Buddhavarapu ‘26.


In their own words, Ursuline students Christina Huerta-Stylianou ‘24, Aine O’Sullivan ‘25, and Riya Buddhavarapu ‘26 reveal how Ursuline's three-year Science Research course is a game-changer for girls interested in STEM. 

What drew you to pursue the Science Research track at Ursuline?

Huerta-Stylianou: I love being encouraged to create my own path. In the Science Research program, you get to explore the unknown. It’s like transcending the confines of a textbook. For example, in biology last year, I could apply what I learned in the lab to my classroom studies. I’m learning in my own way and creating my own learning path while exploring something I’m passionate about.

O’Sullivan: I've always been interested in science. What really drew me to this program was that I was encouraged to conduct research outside of classroom instruction. That’s important because it gives me real-world experience that helps me learn and grow.

Buddhavarapu: What drew me in was the ability to actually participate in the science, not just learn about it. We are given the freedom to further explore things in the lab, whatever piques our interest.

Why does an all-girls learning environment matter? 

Huerta-Stylianou: I learn better in an all-girls environment. We help each other and boost each other up. It’s particularly important because girls have long been underrepresented in STEM fields. 

O’Sullivan: At Ursuline, it’s more like a sisterhood. I think, especially in STEM, it's important for girls to work together and support each other.

Buddhavarapu: Here, women are seen as equals, but outside Ursuline, it's not always that way. At Ursuline, you build confidence early on and see your self-worth in and out of class.

How has the Science Research program impacted your life as a student?

Huerta-Stylianou: The connections and friendships I've made from participating in competitions like WESEF (Regeneron Westchester Science & Engineering Fair) and being part of this research program are definitely a big part of my life.

O’Sullivan: Last summer, I had the opportunity to work at Albert Einstein College of Medicine researching bone cancer. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The exposure and experience I’ve gained, the people I‘ve met… it’s just been invaluable. 

Buddhavarapu: As a sophomore, I’m new to the program this year. But I’ve already seen how it's built my public speaking skills, presentation skills, leadership skills, and self-confidence. It’s been a fantastic experience so far. 

How has the program helped to shape your goals for the future?

Huerta-Stylianou: The program shaped my love for biology. It showed me opportunities for my future that I never knew were possible. It opened my eyes and made me realize that I want to go into research, health care, and the medical field and make a difference for others.

O’Sullivan: For me, the Science Research program is practical skills in a practical curriculum that supports me and my desire to go into the medical field. It’s my head start in pursuing a career in medicine. I couldn't have done that with just the basic high school science classes. I now have more of a tactile sense of the STEM field. 

Buddhavarapu: I liked science when I started here in sixth grade. Now that I’ve begun this program, I've realized I am interested in a future in science and genetic engineering. I’m excited and looking forward to what my future holds.

How have Ursuline teachers supported your interest in STEM?

Huerta-Stylianou:
The amount of care, effort, and attention they give to each student is incredible. I have spent hours with them on the phone, after school, and on weekends at competitions. They make sure that a classroom full of girls with completely different aspirations and goals all get what they want to do done! The bonds between teachers and students are solid from the second you walk in the door in sophomore year to the moment you graduate.

O’Sullivan: My teachers taught me all about the scientific process and career paths in STEM, then used their connections to provide me with tremendous opportunities. They’ve helped me take control of my future. 

Buddhavarapu: The teachers provide so much guidance on where to go and what opportunities exist for us. They are with us every step of the way.

Overall, what should prospective students know about STEM at The Ursuline School?

Huerta-Stylianou: Little girls looking up to us high schoolers should know that they can find themselves and grow into stronger, well-rounded, impactful people in STEM here at Ursuline.

O’Sullivan: They should know that STEM at Ursuline sets you up for success and that there are a lot of opportunities. No matter what interests you, there are plenty of opportunities here, 100 percent!

Buddhavarapu: If you attend The Ursuline School, you can really explore your interests in science and get on track to pursue a career in STEM. The guidance from teachers and mentors makes all the difference!

Ursuline’s Science Lab is home base for these budding scientists and their like-minded peers. The Science Research program is a resume-building game-changer that provides real-world experience on the path to a future in STEM where girls can thrive. 

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Christina Huerta-Stylianou ‘24 measures a fungi sample collected for a DNA Barcoding research study.


 

Aine O’Sullivan ‘25 credits dedicated Ursuline science teachers for helping her land summer opportunities in cancer research.


 

Riya Buddhavarapu ‘26 and Isabella Avila '25 examine specimens under the microscope. 


 

Science department chair Jennifer Micceri and teacher Stacy Unkenholz collaborate with their students while preparing for WESEF.


 

Dr. Oxana Litvine provides step-by-step instructions for the DNA Barcoding project.