Science Bound representatives met with KHOI, 89.1 Community Radio here in Ames, Iowa earlier this week.
Interviewed by KHOI host, Gale Seiler, welcomed Science Bound Director Connie Hargrave and Science Bound alumnus Javier Tello and discussed experiences and the importance of Science Bound as a part of a larger conversation, revolving around recent efforts to foster conversations around race relations in Ames.
Listen to the interview — It begins around the 35-minute mark.
AMES, Iowa – As much as Becky Gomez loved math and science as a kid, she never really connected her favorite subjects with what she might want to do when she grew up. Even when her mom encouraged her to join Science Bound, Becky says she initially thought it was just something fun to do after school.
Now the senior in industrial engineering recognizes how the Iowa State University program, which has empowered Iowa students of color to pursue degrees and careers in STEM fields for the past 25 years, helped fuel her passion into a future career. It all started with her eighth grade science fair project – a Science Bound requirement – and continued in high school with the opportunity to explore different STEM careers.
“I found that I really loved the hands-on approach to science,” Becky said. “That got me interested in problem solving and finding a way to fix the world’s problems and helping other people.”
Through the American Chemical Society’s Project SEED, Science Bound participants and Lincoln High School students Abi Contreras, Fatima Jalloh and Luis Martinez worked in Iowa State University (ISU) laboratories for eight weeks this summer. The teenagers learned what it is like to be a chemist while also gaining experiences they say will help them excel in their upcoming classes.
“It’s a lot different than science courses you might take in high school,” said Martinez, who participated in the program for a second consecutive summer. “Those labs and experiments are designed to almost always work. Here, a lot of times you might fail, but you’ll realize that if you change one or two things, you might get a better yield or get a reaction to work.”
The Lincoln High School students were guided by ISU Chemistry professors Javier Vela, Emily Smith and Malika Jeffries-El.
The students worked on projects with a wide range of applications including the creation of solar cells and increasing the speed of data storage in electronics.
“These types of experiences, which provide students with opportunities to work on research with real-world implications, are critical to ensuring that today’s youth understand the role they can play in STEM,” said Science Bound Director Connie Hargrave.
In addition, the Science Bound students gain the added benefit of bringing their experiences from Project SEED to their high school courses. This is what Martinez found after working in an ISU lab last summer.
“This program really helped me in my AP Chemistry class,” said Martinez. “A lot of the students have problems with lab write-ups, but that was a breeze because I was already used to it.”
These are the kinds of benefits Science Bound wants their students to receive from summer programs.
“We’re excited to know these opportunities are helping students now,” said Hargrave, “but we are also confident they will help them develop into tomorrow’s STEM leaders.”
When Science Bound alum Jessica Maciel-Hernandez began participating in summer research as a Lincoln High School freshman, she wasn’t thinking too much about her career. She was far more concerned with the prospect of camping for three weeks as part of the fieldwork.
“The first time I participated in the summer research was also the first time I ever went camping,” said Maciel-Hernandez, who’s now a senior at Iowa State University. “I’m a city person, so it was definitely a learning experience in many ways. I didn’t know if I would like it or not, but I told myself that I would do it for the whole time no matter what.”
Maciel-Hernandez’s willingness to try new experiences paid off. After continuing to work with the same research group through college, Maciel-Hernandez earned recognitions as a co-author of a research paper. The research she worked on indicates that among painted turtles – a species whose gender is influenced by nesting temperature – the mothers choose nesting sites partially based on gender selection.
The summer research program MacielHernandez took part in is called Turtle Camp Research and Education in Ecology (TREE). ISU professor Fredric Janzen runs this ecological research program, which tries to immerse high school and undergraduate students from groups that are traditionally underrepresented in the field. Janzen and his graduate student Timothy Mitchell were the other researchers included as authors on the published paper with Maciel-Hernandez.
Before participating in TREE, Maciel-Hernandez wasn’t sure about where she wanted to go with her career. Both TREE and her other work with Janzen’s group helped spur her interest in research, and she’s now hoping to find a research-related job after graduating.