Graduate student shares passion for science with middle school students during Science Horizons Summer Program

When Nadia Essi was selected as the only eighth-grade student from Levy Middle School to attend a science camp at Syracuse University, she was excited to learn more about a subject she had come to love. “My fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Berman, had a strong influence on me,” says Essi. “She had a life-size skeleton in the classroom and had so much enthusiasm and excitement for teaching, especially science.”

This year, Essi, now a graduate student at SU working on a master of science degree in biology education, will share her love of science with a new group of middle school students at the 19th annual Science Horizons program. The program, fully funded by Bristol-Myers Squibb and administered by University College of Syracuse University, accepts 40 seventh- and eighth-grade students selected by middle schools throughout Onondaga County to participate in field trips, lectures and hands-on learning during the weeklong science adventure.

Essi is excited to be a part of the instructional team for Science Horizons. “I love that I’ll be able to give the students a chance to see how much fun science really is,” she says. “They are able to explore different types of science and learn more about things that interest them. Science Horizons is the way science should be taught in the schools!”

After graduating from Nottingham High School, Essi attended the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) and earned a bachelor’s degree in biotechnology. “Nadia is a truly gifted student who has demonstrated a sincere passion for teaching science,” says John Tillotson, one of her professors. “She was selected to receive the highly prestigious Robert Noyce Scholar Scholarship through a grant project funded by the National Science Foundation in direct response to President Obama’s national STEM initiative that supports our nation’s most promising collegiate science and mathematics majors in their efforts to become highly qualified teachers in high-needs schools throughout the United States.” During her tenure at SUNY-ESF, Essi spent a semester studying at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia. She also worked a summer at SeaWorld Science Education Camp in Orlando, Fla. educating kids about the animals in the park, their habitats and the environment.

“I want students to understand that science is all around us,” says Essi. “We experience scientific things every single day without really realizing it.” Essi believes that if we want to make the world a better place, want to know about the things that we put in our bodies and learn how the world works, it’s important to know about science.

“I feel it’s so important for students to know that science is creative and fun. It’s not always about being in a lab and mixing chemicals. There are so many different kinds of science that students can study and so many different things to do in the world of science,” she says.

Essi is getting her message across loud and clear. Her most rewarding moment as a teacher came when she did her student teaching at West Genesee High School in May. “I was teaching a 10th grade Living Environment class. After teaching a unit on digestion and nutrition, one of the students came up and told me he learned so much and that he loved the way I taught. Just hearing that made me feel so good, knowing that I made at least one student’s experience in the science classroom a little better.”

In addition to what the students will experience in June, what other lessons would she like her students to learn? “I want them to know that science is for everyone and that if you have a passion for something, you should go for it,” she says.

The Bristol-Myers Squibb Science Horizons Program at SU runs from June 27-July 1. The program is designed to encourage students’ interest in science and technology and to foster interest in science-related careers. Students are given the opportunity to explore technology, chemistry, geology, physics, anatomy and ecology. They visit sites around the SU campus and the community, including Bristol-Myers Squibb.

For more information, contact University College at 315-443-4846 or, or visit