Last Wednesday, a crowd of North­eastern fac­ulty, grad­uate stu­dents and friends gath­ered to hear Aditya Shankar explain his inno­v­a­tive research involving voltam­metry, elec­tro­chem­i­cally reac­tive par­ti­cles and pseudomonas aerug­i­nosa bacteria.

In Sep­tember, Shankar will be a high-​​school senior at West­ford Academy.

For six weeks this summer, Shankar worked in assis­tant pro­fessor Edgar Goluch’s chemical-​​engineering lab as a par­tic­i­pant in Northeastern’s Young Scholars Pro­gram.

The long-​​running pro­gram places 26 of the brightest Boston-​​area high-​​school stu­dents in paid research posi­tions in uni­ver­sity labs. The effort not only increases the depth of stu­dents’ sci­en­tific knowl­edge, it gives them a chance to learn about poten­tial career paths as they col­lab­o­rate with leading fac­ulty to explore an array of sci­ence, tech­nology, engi­neering and math (STEM) areas.

We learned a lot of new con­cepts, but, most impor­tant, we learned what the research process actu­ally entails,” Shankar explained. “We were taught how pre­cise things have to be. In high school, if your mea­sure­ments are off by a few mil­li­liters it won’t really change the results of an exper­i­ment. But in a real lab, if you miss one drop it can be a really big deal.”

Man­soor Amiji, chair of phar­ma­ceu­tical sci­ences and co-​​director of Northeastern’s Nanomed­i­cine Edu­ca­tion and Research Con­sor­tium, has two Young Scholars in his lab.

It is crit­ical that we develop and nur­ture sci­en­tific inquiry at an early age,” Amiji said. “There is a defi­ciency of math and science—especially laboratory-​​based experiences—in our high schools. Hands-​​on expe­ri­ence and research oppor­tu­ni­ties pro­vide the best way to stim­u­late young minds to choose sci­en­tific edu­ca­tional path­ways. It is also a great way to recruit tal­ented high-​​school stu­dents to come to North­eastern for their col­lege education.”

Often, the Young Scholars lab teams also include K–12 edu­ca­tors and community-​​college fac­ulty, thanks to the Research Expe­ri­ences for Teachers pro­gram. Both efforts are coor­di­nated by Claire Duggan of Northeastern’s Center for STEM Edu­ca­tion, and funded by the Linde Family Foun­da­tion and other gov­ern­ment and cor­po­rate funders.

Jenny Makovina, who is about to enter her senior year at Boston Latin School, worked in Amiji’s phar­ma­cology lab. “All the spe­cific tech­niques, like how to cul­ture cells and take microscopy images, I would’ve never learned in a high-​​school lab,” she says. “The most valu­able thing for me has been going through the research process from start to finish, from hypoth­esis to poster presentation.”

Written by Lauren Horn