For Prospective Students

FOCUS, which stands for “Focusing on Cultivating Scientists,” is in its 11th year at Carleton.  FOCUS is designed for students interested in science and promoting diversity in the sciences. FOCUS supports students through their entry into the study of science/math at Carleton and as they continue in the curriculum by creating a cohort which enrolls in classes together (in so far as this makes sense), meets regularly in a colloquium throughout the first two years, and has an opportunity for work study in the sciences.  Cohort activities continue throughout a student's four years at Carleton.  There are two opportunities to join FOCUS in the 2018-2019 academic year: in the fall through the FOCUS Course, and in the winter, based on applications that will be invited during Fall term.

Applying for the Program

Students apply for FOCUS membership the summer before their first year. Every Fall, a science or math based Argument and Inquiry class (freshmen required course) is designated specifically for the incoming FOCUS cohort: for 2018 this course is IDSC 100.02 "Science in the News" with Physics Professor Cindy Blaha. If you are interested in applying for the FOCUS program, choose this course during first-year registration; you will be asked to fill out a short application for the FOCUS program, answering questions about your interest in science/math and how you'll promote diversity in STEM, before submitting your A&I course preferences. The deadline for A&I course selection is August 1st - this is also the deadline for applying for the Fall 2018 FOCUS cohort. The link for the 2018 A&I registration form will be updated by May 11, 2018, when the A&I course selection is finalized.

FOCUS will also be recruiting for a Winter cohort during the Fall of 2018. If not selected for the Fall cohort (16 members), you are strongly encouraged to apply for the Winter program (16 members). The Winter cohort enjoys the same benefits of the Fall cohort, minus the science specific Argument and Inquiry course.

The mission of FOCUS is to increase participation of individuals in science and math who come from backgrounds that are traditionally under-represented (race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, first-generation status, disability, etc.), so please speak to this in your application. You'll hear about placement in FOCUS before coming to campus (Fall applicants) and may be contacted by current FOCUS students to answer any questions you may have about the program.

To find out more about the program, explore the following page and the "For Students" pages.

Benefits for FOCUS students include the following:

  1. Membership in a cohort of science-interested students.
  2. Placement into science-based Argument and Inquiry seminar in fall term of first year.
  3. FOCUS Faculty Mentor and Advisor (a science/math faculty member) working directly with student participants through the colloquium.
  4. Personalized science advising with FOCUS Faculty Mentor in addition to regular academic advising.
  5. A FOCUS Coordinator organizing events and publicizing opportunities.
  6. Priority registration into one science or math course in winter and spring terms of first year.
  7. Full-year colloquium in first and second year taught by the FOCUS Faculty Mentor with an emphasis on science-based activities, projects, research opportunities, and field trips as well as on strategies for success at Carleton. Students earn credits equivalent to a single course distributed over the first year, and equivalent to half of a course over the second year, creating a “cushion” for future terms in which students may want to take a reduced load.
  8. Student mentors available for science/math courses in which FOCUS students are enrolled.
  9. Work-study opportunities in the science/math areas for approximately 50% of work contract, plus opportunities to serve as science/math peer mentor (paid). Check out the FOCUS Mentor and FOCUS Scholars pages for more information about work-study opportunities.
  10. Targeted recruiting for summer opportunities.
  11. First-year and sophomore loan reduction of up to $1000 for students eligible for federal financial aid.

A FOCUS student’s first-year program includes the following:

Fall term

  • A science based Argument and Inquiry seminar. For 2018-"Science in the News" with Physics Professor Cindy Blaha – 6 credits
  • FOCUS colloquium – 2 credits
  • 2 additional courses of student’s choice – 12 credits (likely including 1 math course)

Winter term

  • Math or science course secured through preregistration – 6 credits
  • FOCUS colloquium – 2 credits
  • 2 additional courses of student’s choice – 12 credits

Spring term

  • Math or science course secured through preregistration - 6 credits
  • FOCUS colloquium – 2 credits
  • 2 additional course of student’s choice – 12 credits

The additional credits earned through the FOCUS colloquium provide a credit cushion for future terms, when students may take less courses to accommodate a heavy lab schedule or curricular exploration. The First-Year colloquium teaches research skills and techniques through term long investigations: The curriculum includes projects on handling large data sets, an introduction to research methodology in a variety of disciplines, and research projects tailored to the cohort's interests.

Sophomore Year

The Sophomore year colloquium is 1 credit per term and meets bi-weekly to work collaboratively on an Academic Civic Engagement research project. The topic of the research project, chosen by the FOCUS Faculty Mentor, is broad enough to encompass an interdisciplinary investigation from several angles and viewpoints. Students work with community members and organizations for these projects, culminating in a published FOCUS journal. Past Sophomore projects have included Light Pollution, Air Pollution, and Addiction.

FOCUS Schedule

Contact FOCUS with any questions you may have about the FOCUS program and math and science at Carleton.
Deborah Gross
Professor of Chemistry
Tel: 507-222-5629
Office: Music Hall 303/304

The cohorts are supported by Carleton College, the NSF's Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) through the North Star STEM Alliance, the NSF S-STEM program.  Past support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) is gratefully acknowledged.