161. Dr. Serena McCalla – Change the World through Research, Science and Storytelling

R.O.G. Return on Generosity
R.O.G. Return on Generosity
161. Dr. Serena McCalla - Change the World through Research, Science and Storytelling

“We’re moving at a snail’s pace compared to what’s available out there. These kids are going to change the world if we let them. Or, they won’t because we stopped them.”

“I think that the biggest issue in science it’s our inability to share our stories.”

Serena has dedicated her life to advancing science and science education while working with the nation’s most promising youth. Dr. Serena McCalla was raised in New York City and fell in love with science as an elementary school student. She earned her bachelor’s degree, as a double major, in Biological Science and African American & African Studies from the State University of New York at Binghamton University with intentions to become an ER physician. However, she quickly realized she was more inspired by research than medicine. To satisfy her craving for deeper scientific understandings, Dr. Serena McCalla earned an MS degree in Hematology/Microbiology, a Ph.D. that explored the use of diagnostic tests to improve the comprehension of genetics, photosynthesis, and respiration in secondary and collegiate Courses.

Dr. McCalla’s teaching experience began shortly after earning her bachelor’s degree. In the classroom, her appreciation for the sciences became more profound as the students exposed her to nuances of various scientific disciplines including material science, nanotechnology, computer science, computational biology, and physics. Using her growing knowledge of science fields outside of her degrees, Dr. McCalla founded the iResearch Corporation while working as the Science Research Coordinator for Jericho UFSD, Jericho, NY. 

The iResearch Corporation is the parent company of iResearch Foundation, iResearch Institute, iResearch Academy, and iResearch Science. These companies help Dr. McCalla share her research practices with educators and students from around the globe. The iResearch Foundation supports underrepresented and underprivileged students’ participation in the iResearch Institute and iResearch Academy. These programs promote science research method training and review of fundamental and advanced sciences by conducting laboratory experimentation and data science/bioinformatics data analysis and research to test novel hypotheses.

Additionally, the iResearch Institute and iResearch Academy review the scientific method and research method practices through its international programs. The scientific training of these students encourages them to a) systematically address the use of the scientific method during the completion of projects, b) complete novel experimentation, and c) promote expertise in presenting and writing journal-worthy papers. Secondarily, Dr. McCalla is the Science Research Coordinator for Jericho Union Free School District (UFSD) and designed her curriculum to foster excellence in scientific research. 

The Jericho UFSD program has become one of the preeminent science research programs in the United States. Under Dr. McCalla’s tutelage, the school district is lauded annually for its exemplary performance in the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) and Regeneron (formally Intel) Science Talent Search (STS) competitions producing over 80 scholars and 15 National finalists. The iResearch Corporation parallels the environment Dr. McCalla built at Jericho High School and UFSD, the culture of her classroom and lab brings forth copious avenues to help students excel in science, math, bioinformatics, data science, and engineering research. She enjoys that each day provides a new opportunity to encourage students to explore and impact the future of science and society.

A natural competitor, Dr. Serena McCalla is not only a science research enthusiast and professional; she also considers herself a science geek and competition supporter. She is the President of the New York State Science and Engineering Fair (NYSSEF; 2014 – present) because she believes in promoting students’ academic excellence and encouraging accompanied recognition in science. Her most pivotal goal is to foster student learning and research to extend past successes in their universities and ultimately manifest themselves in the global arena. Dr. McCalla believes these works will propel this generation of students to improve life on this planet as we know it.

Dr. McCalla has earned numerous awards for teaching and mentoring. Awards she has received include the U.S. Presidential Scholar Program Teacher Recognition Award (2023, 2017, & 2010), the Distinguished Teacher Award from the Harvard Club of Long Island (2016 & 2012), the Teacher of Merit Award earned annually from Regeneron/Intel Science Talent Search (2023 – 2010), received an honorary minor planet (named Serena McCalla) from MIT Lincoln Laboratory, and the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force funded Outstanding Teacher Award in association with the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS). Dr. McCalla’s students have won virtually all STEM competitions that are publicly accessible regionally, nationally, and internationally.

To conclude, Dr. McCalla had the unique experience of participating as a principal subject in the National Geographic documentary Science Fair. The immensely likable film chronicles the importance of science fairs in the high school learning experience. The documentary highlights the trials, tribulations, and successes of the Jericho High School students in the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). The documentary was selected for and premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, and was honored by winning the festival’s first-ever overall Festival Favorite Award. The documentary also earned additional awards, including an Academy Emmy Award. Dr. McCalla is again a principal character in the upcoming National Geographic TV/Disney+ docuseries released on December 10, 2023, called Science Fair: the Series. Dr. McCalla has also participated in speaking engagements, commercials, and panels for Disney+, National Geographic, and XSTEM. She is also a newly named National Geographic Explorer, receiving the Wayfinder Award in 2023. The Wayfinder Grant supported the design of a new science research competition entitled “The Lost Einsteins”. Dr. McCalla hopes to continue to bolster the brilliance and determination of future scientists. In addition, she encourages her students to follow her quote- “if you dream it, complete the work to make your dream reality”. McCalla aspires to support all students to make a difference by discovering something new within themselves and the world.

R.O.G. Takeaway Tips:

  • Find your passion.
  • Share your story.
  • Anything is possible if you have enough passion and determination to put the work in to make your dreams a reality.
  • Do what you believe in and benefit the world.


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Dr. Serena McCalla, Sheep Jam Productions, Host Shannon Cassidy, Bridge Between, Inc.

Coming Next: Please join us next week, Episode 162, Building Bridges Coaching Tips for Generous Leaders with Shannon Cassidy.