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Scientific frontiers are snap for teens - Bright high school students become partners in science this summer

Many high school students spend their summers searching for fun in the sun at the Jersey Shore. But 41 New Jersey teens are using this time to invest in their futures, working with scientists in labs across the state and conducting research that could potentially improve the lives of people all over the world.

One extraordinary Brooklyn student is participating in Partners In Science, a program offered by Liberty Science Center. Initiated well before the Science Center opened to the public in 1993, the program is now in its 22nd year of providing intensive research experiences for high school students, some as young as 15 years-old.

For most of the students, this is their first exposure to science completed in a professional setting. The experience they will have this summer will strengthen their interest in the field, leading to a new generation of much-needed researchers and scientists in New Jersey.

Brooklyn Participant

& Project for 2008

Eddie Sitt of Magen David High School, 7801 Bay Parkway, will be using state-of-the-art technology to conduct research on advanced magnetic materials. His goal is to develop an electronic box — a critical component for retrieving tiny signals from a microscope. Eddie’s mentor is Dr. Weidu Wu of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Rutgers University.

“Partners In Science takes students beyond textbooks and school-based labs by immersing them in authentic scientific endeavors carried out by professional scientists,” says Jeff Osowski, Ph.D., vice president of Learning & Teaching at Liberty Science Center. “Through the program, they can conduct real scientific investigations.”

In addition to gaining hands-on research experience and presentation skills, students develop a network of advisors and lifelong connections that can help define and focus future career goals.

In an age when we are seeking to involve more women in the sciences, the Partners In Science program has a proven record of doing so. A majority of the students enrolled in the program are female, as are many of the program mentors.

Additionally, almost one-third of these high-achieving science students come from Abbott districts, including Union City, Jersey City and Newark. Since 1998, Liberty Science Center, in collaboration with the New Jersey Department of Education, has undertaken one of the most unique and extensive science education projects found anywhere in the nation, providing students, teachers and families from New Jersey’s 31 Abbott school districts with a menu of onsite, offsite and online experiences. Partners In Science provides exceptional students from Abbott districts with extraordinary opportunities for personal and career growth.

The Process

Students, nominated by their high schools, and completing their sophomore or junior year, apply for an eight-week placement in a professional lab environment over the summer. Professional scientists act as mentors to students on research projects in a variety of subjects, including behavioral science, environmental science, medical science, physics, website development, molecular biology, entomology, computer science, food science and genetics.

Before Research Begins

Prior to the start of the summer program, mentors are matched with nominated students based on their field of interest and transportation needs. Each student undergoes an interview with a prospective mentor. Once the mentor has approved the student, final acceptance letters are mailed to students and mentors. Accepted students attend a two-day orientation at Liberty Science Center designed to promote teamwork, refine lab skills and familiarize students with the Science Center.

In The Lab

Under the guidance of their mentors, students immediately begin working in a professional lab. They may engage in new research, assist in ongoing research, or verify work already completed. Students may work under the supervision of graduate or postdoctoral students and have opportunities to network with their mentors’ peers, both opportunities which can support the students’ future educational and career decisions.

At Liberty Science Center

Each month, students return to the Liberty Science Center for instructional sessions designed to enhance career and presentation skills. Workshops focus on technical writing, effective oral presentations and developing research skills. In addition, students work on their resumes and learn how to use their research experience to strengthen college applications and enhance science fair projects. Each participant receives a $750 stipend from Liberty Science Center to offset travel expenses and other out-of-pocket costs.

The program culminated with a final science symposium, this year, where students, surrounded by their mentors, family and friends, presented their research topics, data and conclusions, and receive a certificate of participation from Liberty Science Center. More than 500 students have gained important real-life research experiences that have led to remarkable accomplishments through the program.

Visit www.lsc.org to learn more about Liberty Science Center, in Liberty State Park, Jersey City, NJ.

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