Young scholars get a taste for science in the summer

Twenty-​​four high school stu­dents lis­tened intently as civil and envi­ron­mental engi­neering assis­tant pro­fessor Matthew Eck­elman pre­sented his research on mod­eling the energy inputs and out­puts of com­mer­cial prod­ucts and processes.

At the end of the lec­ture, Eck­elman revealed a sur­prising fact. “Sev­en­teen years ago I was where you are now,” he told the stu­dents, who gath­ered in Shillman Hall last Thursday. “I was a young scholar here at Northeastern.”

He was refer­ring to his par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Center for STEM Edu­ca­tion’s Young Scholars Pro­gram, which offers future sci­en­tists and engi­neers in Boston-​​area high schools paid research posi­tions in university labs.

Claire Duggan, the center’s director of pro­grams and oper­a­tions, launched the pro­gram in 1989 in response to the growing shortage of U.S. stu­dents in sci­ence, tech­nology, engi­neering, and math. Many of the program’s alumni are cur­rently studying at North­eastern and other uni­ver­si­ties around the country, she said.

“Research strongly shows that the ear­lier stu­dents are able to envi­sion them­selves in these roles, the more likely they are to per­sist in a STEM field,” Duggan explained. “The long-​​term suc­cess of the NUYSP pro­gram rein­forces these findings.”

The stu­dents who attended last week’s lec­ture are among the state’s highest achieving young scholars, according to Duggan, and have set their sights on sci­ence and engi­neering careers. They will spend the next six weeks working in North­eastern research lab­o­ra­to­ries across the Col­lege of Sci­ence and the Col­lege of Engineering.

Some will be in the Lab­o­ra­tory of Bio­ma­te­rials and Advanced Nano-​​Delivery Sys­tems, with Man­soor Amiji, Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Phar­ma­ceu­tical Sci­ences, whose research focuses on the devel­op­ment of imaging and ther­a­peutic tech­nolo­gies for addressing chal­lenging prob­lems in cancer, inflam­ma­tion, and car­dio­vas­cular dis­eases. Others will help develop nanoflu­idic micro­bial detec­tion plat­forms in the lab of Edgar Goluch, assis­tant pro­fessor of chem­ical engi­neering. Still others will work with asso­ciate pro­fessor of civil and envi­ron­mental engi­neering Ferdi Hell­weger on com­pu­ta­tional mod­eling sys­tems to pre­dict water quality con­di­tions in places like the Charles River.

Satwick Kamarthi, who attends Xaverian Brothers High School in West­wood, Mass., is working in the Syn­er­getic Media Learning Lab, known as the SMILE lab. Directed by elec­trical and com­puter engi­neering assis­tant pro­fessor Ray­mond Fu, the lab focuses on applied machine learning, social media ana­lytics, and human-​​computer interaction.

“I spent last summer vol­un­teering at a hos­pital,” Kamarthi said, but this time “I wanted to do some­thing more in depth in science.”

YSP is not the center’s only pro­gram for stu­dents inter­ested in sci­ence and engi­neering. This summer 48 ele­men­tary and middle school stu­dents are learning to apply their engi­neering skills to design a city of the future.

Three cur­rent YSP stu­dents have par­tic­i­pated in the summer sci­ence pro­gram in the past. One of them is Zion Bereket, who is spending the summer con­ducting research with Annalisa Onnis-​​Hayden, a post­doc­toral research asso­ciate in asso­ciate pro­fessor of civil and envi­ron­mental engi­neering April Gu’s lab.

“In middle school we were looking around at the dif­ferent areas,” Bereket said. “Then they were saying ‘this is what you could do.’ And now we’re actu­ally doing it.”


Related Faculty: Claire Duggan, Matthew J. Eckelman, Annalisa Onnis-Hayden

Related Departments:Chemical Engineering, Civil & Environmental Engineering, Electrical & Computer Engineering