A portrait of Alexandra Solowinska, an adjunct faculty lecturer at Stony Brook University. Solowinska, helps STEM students in finding internships and research programs. MICHAEL RUIZ/STATESMAN FILE

Through her fall 2021 pre-professional advising workshops, Stony Brook University lecturer is connecting students to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and pre-health internship and research opportunities. 

For incoming freshmen, sophomores and juniors, the task of finding a valuable internship or research program in the STEM and pre-health fields may be daunting and even discouraging due to the competitiveness in their application process, according to Solowinska. According to a report from the National Center for Education Statistics, STEM entrants tend to exit their field years later because of competition. 

To combat this, Solowinska said there is a need for catching the attention of employers with a plethora of previous experience and achievements, which both the newer and the experienced students alike may be uninformed about. 

“I want to put students in the pipeline because it’s a step forward,” Solowinska said. Within her program, she wants to introduce them to summer camps and summer research programs, “which are sometimes hard to discover in undergrad.” 

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Solowinska plans to hold a pre-professional advising program, including pre-health advising, starting Sept. 29. Information on the program, which entails lectures, journaling, seminars and one-on-one mentorship, can be found through the pre-health advising office. Currently, some future events will be “Zoom Talks by Alums” or “Trends in Medical and Dental School Admissions.” 

Juliana Hise, who previously had Solowinska as not just a teacher, “but a mentor,” currently works alongside Solowinska in the introductory Stony Brook course, SBU 101. Hise affirms that Solowinska’s programs revolve around the goal that there is something important to be learned. Hise explains that it can be “a small piece of advice or something that will be used throughout the students’ time in college or beyond in their careers.”

Solowinska said the inspiration for the advising program comes from her own experience within a Cornell graduate program, which partnered students with a one-on-one mentorship and paid a weekly stipend of $6,000, allowing her to stay in Upper East Side, New York, for the duration of the program. Even today, six years later, Solowinska is able to talk with her mentor daily for guidance.

“Networking is key; you never know who to reach out to,” Solowinska said.

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As insight for her pre-professional advising, Solowinska had previously presented plenty of these connections turned opportunities in her workshop. One of these connections is The Leadership Alliance, a summer research early identification program that fully pays interns in its training and mentoring curriculum. Over the course of eight to 10 weeks, students would work under the institution’s faculty or a research mentor, present at the Leadership Alliance National Symposium, and continue to gain support in pursuing Ph.D. or M.D.-Ph.D. programs. 

Those connected with Solowinska have found success in achieving their goals, according to Bailey Chan, a senior biochemistry major. 

“Personally, I have had a lot of different supervisors over my college career, but none of which have been as compassionate and welcoming as Alexandra. She inspires me,” Chan, a teaching assistant for Solowinska, said. “Anyone that knows Alexandra knows how far she has come to be as successful as she is today. She fought through cancer throughout much of her earlier life, and beat it. Since then, she has dedicated much of her time to the healthcare field.”

Solowinska encourages every student to find research that they are passionate about. For pre-health students, Solowinska provided a link to Association of American Academy Medical Colleges (AAMC) Summer Undergraduate Research Programs. Through AAMC, pre-health students can find summer programs provided by universities found in the United States of America. These programs include training, guidance and stipends to accommodate enrolled students.  

“I have known Alexandra Solowinska for a good number of years — ever since she was an undergraduate,” James Montren, the director for pre-professional advising, said. “Alexandra is a survivor and a thriver.”

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Solowinska and Montren work together in guiding Stony Brook’s students. 

“Her desire to help others and her passion for her goals are noteworthy,” Montren said. “She goes ‘above and beyond’ in her efforts to share her knowledge and experience with students. Stony Brook University is extremely fortunate to have people like Alexandra in its community.”  

Solowinska expects the program to be most beneficial for freshmen, sophomores and juniors. She states that internships and research programs will continue to be heterogeneous in their requirements, meaning these programs can have varying qualifications that can get confusing. However, Solowinska reassures students that they should still “apply now, or store these programs at the back of your head, and apply later.” 

Solowinska continues to search for programs that are inclusive of all students, including those with disabilities. 

“Keep going, it’s always worth a shot,” Solowinska said in reference to boosting one’s career. “Never be afraid to go out there and ask; disregard naysayers; achieve your dreams; be unstoppable.”

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