SESP Hosts High School Science Project Showcase

SESP Hosts High School Science Project Showcase

High School Project Showcase

Nearly 70 high school students presented their science projects at the Northwestern University High School Project Showcase on May 20 — with topics ranging from baseball biomechanics to cancer treatments, sleep quality and hydroponics. The annual showcase fosters high school students’ excitement about science as well as their aspirations for a selective college such as Northwestern. 

“Research helps high school students to learn science and … increases their interest in pursuing science as a career,” says SESP research associate professor Steven McGee, who planned the event. “It gives students exposure to a college campus in general and Northwestern specifically — it helps them feel like Northwestern could be a home for them.”

Northwestern University president Morton Schapiro reinforced that sentiment when he spoke to the group of high school students and later viewed their poster presentations. He addressed the young people as “scientists” and told them, “I hope some of you are coming here.”

Student reactions revealed the excitement that science can engender. “I would like to continue my research as a scientist,” said Rosemary Huggins of Oak and Park River Forest High School, who noted that the project encouraged her. “I want to do something in a science field,” said Samiyah Mubarak of Lindblom as she described future goals for investigating cancer treatments.  “I learned a ton about science procedures. I got a lot out of this,” commented Anvesh Jalasutram of Stevenson High School.

The showcase also allows students to develop their ability in presenting their work — an increasingly important skill. Teacher Allison Hennings of Oak Park and River Forest High School says, “It’s hard to find an avenue where students can make presentations, and after a whole year of research, that’s important.”

A number of science projects were completed as part of a project-based curriculum that SESP researchers developed. Others were completed through school science courses or as independent research. Some of the teachers were involved with the initiative through the Northwestern University Leadership Academy for School Leadership, which provides a way for SESP “to support continued collaboration on improvements in science,” according to McGee.

The event shows the importance of “more authentic science” in schools, according to Michelle Paulsen, associate director of the Office of STEM Education Partnerships (OSEP). The Reach for the Stars graduate fellowship program in science that she oversees provided judges for the event.

Participants applied to the showcase as part of a selection process, and their presentations were judged on process, coherence and quality. Oak Park and River Forest High School produced three winners: in life science, Barrett McCabe for “The Effects of a Hydroponics System on the Growth Rate of Tanacetum cinerariifoium in Comparison to Traditional Soil Agriculture”; in environmental science, Sean Hickey for “The Use of Activated Sludge Process in the Bioremediation of Heavy Metal Contamination in Drinking Water”; and in human biology, Connor Kotte for “Variations in the Duration of Sleep in Danio rerio in Response to Changes in Melatonin Levels.” The winner in physical science was Dekonti Davies from Walter Payton College Preparatory High School for “Trench Etching in MOSFETs.”

Winners in the two curriculum project categories were from John Hancock College Prep High School: Leandro Padilla for the critter project and Jessica Molloy-Garcia, Richard Guzman, Carlos Anguiano, Mari Hernandez for the Florida school project. All participants were judged on their research process and findings, the overall coherence of their procedures, and the quality of their poster presentation.

The showcase was hosted by OSEP as part of Northwestern University’s Undergraduate Research and Arts Exposition. OSEP is engaged in many partnerships with Chicago-area high schools to improve science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. OSEP provides professional development for teachers, curriculum materials and learning technologies for classrooms, and hands-on inquiry-based STEM learning initiatives for students. 

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 5/24/13