For six weeks this summer, Boston-area high school students and educators ventured into Northeastern University’s engineering and science laboratories for the opportunity to collaborate with leading faculty on innovative research projects. Play Video.
These experiences were made possible though two highly selective programs: the Young Scholars Program, which this year included just 18 high school students, and the Research Experiences for Teachers program, with only 23 high school teachers and community college faculty participating this summer.
Both programs are overseen by Northeastern’s Center for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Education, and are funded by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Homeland Security and by other public and by private foundations.
Claire Duggan, the STEM center’s director for programs and operations, said the Young Scholars Program introduces students to the possibilities of leading-edge research and provides future scientists and engineers with important hands-on experience in a lab setting. The Research Experiences for Teachers program, she said, expands educators’ knowledge in their subjects and gives them opportunities to share ideas they can bring back to the classrooms to educate and inspire their students.
“They are able to accomplish a lot in a very short period of time,” Duggan said, “and the students really just blossom,” gaining maturity, knowledge of science and math concepts and enthusiasm for STEM disciplines.
Participants recently highlighted their summer projects during a poster show at the Egan Engineering Research Center. Steve Rada, of Boston Latin School, and Jacob Holstein, of Sharon High School — who start their senior years this fall — studied the components of jet fuels using gas chromatography. Holstein said it was thrilling to work in a college research environment as an aspiring engineer, while Rada said the experience gave him a wealth of knowledge he can share with classmates this fall as president of his high school’s engineering club.
Meanwhile, Diana Cost, a biology and engineering teacher at Weymouth High School, and Kellie Burtch, a biology teacher at the Innovation Academy Charter School in Tyngsboro, Mass., worked on a research project led by Northeastern engineering professor Ferdi Hellweger, aimed at making the Charles River swimmable again.
Both Cost and Burtch, who helped gather and analyze water samples in the Charles River, said they would use the experience in their own classrooms by designing water sample testing experiments with students.
“Students need hands-on experience, and they need real-world connections,” Cost said. “We want students engaged and taking part in anything that has to do with learning. They have to feel like they’re a part of it, like they have a way to express themselves and have some control over it.”