August 02, 2011

Event will showcase high school students' research

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Local high school students interested in chemistry are getting a boost from programs at Southern Illinois University Carbondale this summer, and their work will culminate in a campus event later this week.

Four high school students participated in this year’s program, sponsored by the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in the College of Science. The event, set for 2-5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 4, at the west end of the Neckers Building, will showcase research projects the students completed this summer in cooperation with SIUC faculty and staff.

The event features a poster session followed by a reception and also will include research presentations from undergraduate researchers.  It is free and open to the public.

The programs give students the opportunity to conduct research during the summer, said Gabriela Pérez-Alvarado, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at SIUC. Along with the chemistry and biochemistry department, the National Science Foundation and the American Chemical Society also sponsor the programs.

 “Providing this opportunity to local high school students goes hand-in-hand with the mission of an educational and research institution, where it is important to reach out to the community and engage our local high school students in activities that will enhance their participation in scientific disciplines in the future,” she said. 

 The summer outreach activity provides talented high school students with an opportunity to work with faculty mentors and obtain hands-on experience on research, Pérez-Alvarado said.  It can also help direct such students to careers in their fields of interest.

 “This gives students a practical opportunity and exposure to careers in science,” she said. “Both programs are meant to provide career guidance,”

The programs are Project SEED, which stands for “Summer Experience for Economically Disadvantaged,” and the Summer Research Program for High School Students.  Students in both programs receive fellowship awards and the students in the American Chemical Society-sponsored program are eligible to compete for ACS scholarships only available to SEED participant students.

              This year’s high school students are:

              • Rebecca Weber of Herrin High School.  Her faculty mentor was Brian M. Lee, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

              • Cassandra Meadows, of Herrin High School.  Her mentors were: Pérez-Alvarado and Kyle Plunkett, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

              • Mason Hayward, of Anna-Jonesboro Community High School. His mentor was Michael Lydy, professor of zoology.

              • Gabriel Neely-Streit of Carbondale Community High School.  Her mentor also was Lydy.

During the same event, undergraduate students from several different universities as well as SIUC will present posters as part of the NSF-sponsored Research for Undergraduate Students program, also hosted by SIUC.  That program, coordinated by Boyd Goodson, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, is aimed at increasing participation in the sciences and pairs students with faculty mentors in the departments of physics and chemistry and biochemistry, and the College of Engineering.