The Community College Cultivation Cohort (C4) is a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF REU), sponsored by the Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI), an NSF Science and Technology Center located at the University of Southern California. C4 recruits community college students nationwide, focusing on students who are interested in pursuing a STEM career. Students participate in a 9-week research experience where they work in teams to identify and characterize a novel seafloor or subseafloor microbe. In addition to learning about research culture by being immersed in it, students attend weekly professional development sessions focused on succeeding at a 4-year institution and beyond. We asked this year’s cohort to tell us about their experiences. Here are a selection of their answers.