ISU labs offer hands-on experience

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.”