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Project SEED Helps Grow New Scientists

Student participants in the American Chemical Society Project SEED program are wrapping up their final reports. This eight- to 10-week, paid internship pairs economically disadvantaged juniors and seniors with faculty at local universities, colleges or industry partners to help them experience what it's like to be a chemist.

Among the institutional supporters of the initiative is New York's Rochester Institute of Technology, where five faculty members participate.

Associate professors Callie Babbitt in the Institute for Sustainability and Christy Tyler in the School of Life Sciences mentored Shally Lin, a senior at Pittsford-Mendon High School. The team worked on developing methods for extracting and analyzing carbon nanomaterials from freshwater sediments as part of a National Science Foundation grant aimed at understanding environmental impacts of nanotechnology.

"I originally got involved with the SEED program in an effort to make our research more relevant to the community and attract and recruit students to STEM education and careers," said Babbitt, a first-time SEED mentor, in an article on the institution's Web site. "But by the end of the summer I realized how much the experience also benefited our research efforts. Shally made significant contributions to our experimental work and provided a fresh perspective on how to communicate the findings to a broader audience."

The one-on-one attention students receive can "encourage" them to pursue higher education, noted Professor Lea Vacca Michel, the Project SEED coordinator at RIT. "We have many students in Rochester who don't have the opportunity to learn about what being a scientist is really like... This opportunity allows them to gain firsthand experience in a lab and to learn about cutting-edge science."

Project SEED has been operating for 44 years. Those accepted to attend must have already taken high school science classes and be recommended by a teacher. As a last act for their participation, the high schoolers are expected to write a report about their experiences. Besides exposure to the inner workings of scientists in a university setting, they earn a $2,500 stipend.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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