National Science Foundation – Hispanic Serving Institution (NSF-HSI) Awards a Million Dollar Collaborative Grant to Develop a Wastewater Based Epidemiology Student Training and Education Program At CUNY

Published: September 06, 2023

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The National Science Foundation-Hispanic Serving Institution (NSF-HSI) has a awarded a million-dollar, collaborative grant to Queensborough Community College, Queens College, and LaGuardia Community College to develop a Wastewater-based Epidemiology Student Training and Education Program. Queens College, the lead institution, received $699,469, LaGuardia Community College $152,838 and Queensborough Community College $143,364. The grant was awarded in August 2023, for five years beginning January 1, 2024.

The Principal Investigator of the project is Dr. John Dennehy, professor of biology at Queens College, who is working with Co-Principal Investigators Dr. Monica Trujillo, professor of biology at Queensborough Community College and Dr. Olga Calderón, professor of biology at LaGuardia Community College.

Wastewater-based epidemiology is an emerging technology that can warn of future pandemics. At the community colleges the grant award funds will support courses that integrate research in the classroom. The funds will also support release time for science faculty for professional development.

“Clearly there is a lack of equity in the STEM fields for minority groups and women,” said Co-PI Dr. Monica Trujillo, microbiologist and Professor, Biological Sciences and Geology at Queensborough Community College. “Our mission is to level the playing field so that more students in this population will pursue STEM majors and then successfully transfer to four-year colleges to study in a field that has some of the highest average paying salaries. There is real potential to change the current equation.”

Student Interns in the training and education program will be supported through mentoring and advising, social activities, and entrepreneurial training. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to join academic labs as summer researchers and industry labs as summer interns.

Queensborough Community College President, Dr. Christine Mangino said, “I congratulate these three CUNY colleges on their great success which will open many doors for all our STEM students in the classroom, the laboratory and in the larger scientific community.”

Trujillo previously spearheaded a collaboration with Dennehy at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to track the evolution of Covid in New York City wastewater. She has extensively collaborated with faculty from other CUNY colleges and beyond and is passionate in promoting the advancement of underrepresented minorities in STEM and participates in a group that explores how microbiology relates to health disparities when approaching research questions and design.

Trujillo noted, "The Covid landscape has changed and is no longer considered an epidemic, but the virus is still with us, and research is essential if we are to make progress in fighting this disease. The public is tired of this for sure, but the virus is not. This is what we must accept. We must be consistent to protect ourselves and each other.”  


About Queensborough:

Queensborough Community College, a campus of The City University of New York (CUNY), is one of the most diverse colleges in America and has a national reputation for the upward mobility of its graduates. The college offers in-person and hybrid classes and more than 40-degree programs, including a new cybersecurity program and a fully online business degree.

Queensborough is the highest-ranked community college in New York State and is among the best community colleges in the country, according to a 2023 report released by It is the sixth year in a row Queensborough has been listed as a top institution of higher education by WalletHub for its education outcomes, career outcomes, and affordability. They, along with equity, access, and opportunities, are hallmarks of Queensborough Community College. And they are essential to Queensborough's students' upward and inter-generational social mobility.

Accreditors have also commended Queensborough for its genuine care for student success, its small college feel, and the quality of its student support services. Because Queensborough is part of the City University of New York (CUNY), a quality education is guaranteed.


Contact:  Alice Doyle

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