The College Board Merit Prize is a scholarship award in the TASC program. It is awarded to a student from Level E who (1) meets the qualifications listed in the prize description and (2) exhibits excellent potential to become a successful college student based on stated criteria. The awardee with demonstrate their interest and eligibility during the term and based on the listed criteria, a small committee of TASC Faculty and Staff will choose the winner. The award will be a $1,000 cash prize for books and academic support materials to help ensure success in the first year at college. The prize will be given in two installments: $500 to be given after the Awardee has enrolled in college and the second $500 after enrollment in the second term.

RCSS College Board Merit Prize Description »

The field of ethnoastronomy is about uncovering the lost knowledge that ancient peoples had about the skies around them. Both the Inca and the Aztecs interpreted the world around them through the lens of religion. As anthropologists have discovered through fieldwork and primary sources, the knowledge these peoples acquired from their observations and calculations informed not only their agrarian lifestyles, it contributed to the growth of their respective civilizations as well.
The focus of this research is to study the overall connection between the experiences of Holocaust survivors and Taglit-Birthright Israel (TBI) participants, both of whom qualified for their experiences through the misuse of pseudo-scientific (racial science/genetics/hygiene) rules, first exploited by scientists within Nazi Germany to qualify citizens of the Third Reich as "Jews." These scientists sought to uncover the "Jewish gene" that was passed down through heredity, identifying Jews by their heritage rather than their religion. TBI uses a "one-quarter Jewish" rule to qualify its participants (and also allows those who have converted to participate) for a free trip to Israel. The subjects of this portion of the project are past participants and staff members of TBI. Subjects were given a brief baseline survey about identity and their experiences, followed by an interrogative interview. Interview material was assessed qualitatively for material (subjective experiences, thematic content) and quantitatively for key words. The overall conclusions indicate some connection between the anxiety felt by participants about their identities and how they were defined for Birthright and the fear and trauma of the Holocaust. Future research could include more of a focus on genetics as well as pre- and post-tests regarding identity and genetic background before and after Birthright.

Tess Cersonsky, BIOL UN3700x Summary »

Tess Cersonsky, BIOL UN3700x Final Paper »

This project seeks to create an opportunity for Columbia University undergraduates to live alongside the elderly residents of a nursing home. By creating a long term care facility in Manhattanville or by partnering with a pre-existing facility, members of the RCSS are proposing that Columbia University plan to select approximately 10 juniors to take up residence in the facility each academic year. This arrangement would benefit both young and old participants by creating a unique community rooted in an appreciation for the value of intergenerational companionship. To name a few of the benefits to students and the elderly, this project would work to combat the harmful physical and emotional effects of social isolation often experienced by the elderly while providing an affordable housing option for students.
The journal is a platform where RCSS affiliates (students, faculty, etc.) can contribute essays, reflective in nature. The journal provides a forum for Columbia affiliates to share and discuss their experiences with science, service, and subjectivity. The journal publishes student, faculty, and affiliate reflections, papers, research articles, and other relevant material, such as visual art and other forms of expression. Inspired by the philosophy and supported by the administration of the Research Cluster on Science and Subjectivity, the journal seeks to provide a student-run extension of this research cluster that is open to members of the entire Columbia community. The journal serves as an extension of student's experiences volunteering at Terence Cardinal Cooke as well.

RCSS Journal, Volume 1 »

The website is a platform where RCSS students, faculty, and alumni share their projects, pictures, events, and personal information. Columbia University undergraduate students can learn about the RCSS-TCC internship and how to apply. The website has been built to be responsive across devices of different sizes. The website is continuously under development with the goal of bringing together people around issues involving science, service, and subjectivity. If you have any suggestions for the website, please contact Jill (
There is a strong intersection between race and science, particularly in the US, yet it is rarely acknowledged. This intersection, however, carries great implications. People of color and underserved populations receive a lower quality of care in healthcare settings and have historically been taken advantage of. Due to this, there is a lack of trust between these populations and healthcare professionals.

It is necessary for students interested in science-based careers to consider how race will affect us throughout our careers and how we can address the concerns of people of color with regard to their health. However, these topics are rarely addressed in science classes here at Columbia.

The Sunday Dinner Series seeks to fill this gap by creating a laid-back forum for people to discuss different intersections between race and science. It is a series of six dinners, two in the fall and four in the spring, hosted once a month in order to address topics such as Institutional Racism and Health Outcomes, The Epidemic of Gun Violence and Police Brutality, and The Stigma of Mental Health in Underserved Populations.