Date: April 25, 2011
More than 20 high school seniors representing eight schools in Berrien and Cass counties will showcase “reinvented science education” at the 1st BEST Early Research Symposium on Wednesday, April 27, at 12:30 p.m. The Symposium will take place in Room A-107, the Chemistry Lecture Hall of Halenz Hall in the Science Complex on the campus of Andrews University. The public is invited to attend.
The 1st BEST Research Symposium highlights Berrien Regional Education Service Agency’s (Berrien RESA) Berrien County Mathematics & Science Center’s senior-level chemistry students’ research projects. The research projects and the restructured grade 12 class were designed and developed by Andrews University assistant professor of chemistry and Mathematics & Science Center instructor, Desmond Murray. Through this class, students receive a “reinvented science education” by using a non-traditional, laboratory-intensive and research-focused approach to the process of scientific discovery.
“The innovation Dr. Murray uses as he instructs our students continues to astound me,” said Tonya Snyder, Berrien RESA Berrien County Math & Science Center coordinator. “The laboratory techniques our students are engaging in provide a unique opportunity for them to get excited about research. And, by providing a public forum for the students to present their research (through the BEST Research Symposium), they truly understand all the components of scientific exploration; from creating a hypothesis to sharing their discoveries with the world. ”
At the symposium, students will share their research with dignitaries, Andrews University faculty and staff, their families and the community. They will also demonstrate how to use modern instrumentation and university-level lab techniques that they have mastered while researching topics such as dyes, novel fragrances/flavors based on ginger, hybrid drugs of ibuprofen and Vitamin C, biocompatible polymers, biodegradable cosmetic chemicals, and molecular sensors with potential forensic applications.
Murray explained early hands-on participation in science research allows high school students to begin contributing to the advancement of knowledge. This experience also increases their understanding of the innovation process.
“Early research participation provides the students with their initial steps towards becoming independent researchers and innovators,” said Murray. “The BEST Early Symposium allows students to share both their research findings and experiences. It also gives the public an opportunity to see up close the potential scientific and societal value of engaging students early in the processes of discovery, research and innovation.”
Other faculty members at Andrews University are taking notice of what these students are learning.
“Chemistry is best learned by actually doing,” said Andrews University Department Chair and professor of biochemistry, D. David Nowack. “Through research, high school students become better trained, more motivated citizens of society. The Andrews University Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry has greatly benefited from students whose first real exposure to chemistry came through such early hands-on experiences.”
According to Murray, surveys of past students indicated that for more than 85 percent of them, this course was their first hands-on experience conducting independent lab research. Further, 89 percent felt the experience was positive and important, 76 percent indicated greater interest in research, and 80 percent suggested that they would like to continue taking research classes. For one student in particular, the experience has compelled her to change her intended college major.
“Taking this class has influenced my career choices,” said Bridgman High School senior Stephanie Burkhard. “I love doing the lab work so much that I changed my major to include chemistry whereas before I really didn't like chemistry at all…(because of this class) I plan to do some research starting as a freshman in college because there is so much out there to be discovered.”
The 1st BEST Early Research Symposium is sponsored by the Benton Spirit Community Newspaper, the Andrews University Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, BEST Early Research, Berrien RESA and the Berrien County Mathematics & Science Center.
To learn more about BEST and their initiatives, please visit www.bestearly.com.