High-School Science Discovery Program Flourishes

High-School Science Discovery Program Flourishes

When MBL Director Nipam Patel was in high school in El Paso, Texas, an offer came his way that not only deepened his interest in nature and science, it paved the way for a successful research career.

“I had the opportunity to do research at University of Texas, Austin, through a National Science Foundation-sponsored summer program for high-school students,” Patel said. “I worked in a lab, and I even got my first first-author paper from work I did on blood cell development in chicken embryos. That got me totally hooked on doing research at a pretty young age.”

So it’s no wonder that within months of becoming MBL director in 2018, Patel was developing and teaching in a major new venture for the laboratory: The High-School Science Discovery Program. Now entering its third year, the program has brought 92 students from 7 secondary schools to the MBL for intensive research experiences modeled on the MBL’s famed Advanced Research Training Courses.

Confocal images taken by students in the High School Science Discovery Program. Credit Nipam Patel

“What our high-school and advanced research programs have in common is a hands-on, proactive approach, where the students work hand-in-hand with scientists, answering real-life research problems,” said MBL Education Director Linda Hyman.

In 2021, the MBL may offer high-school students a rich array of 3- to 7-day long research experiences taught by MBL scientists, from “Coral Reefs in a Changing World” to “CRISPR-Cas9 Gene Editing of Aquatic and Marine Organisms.”

Curious teachers, students, and the public are invited to attend a webinar with many of the MBL faculty who teach in the program. The next webinars will be held Oct. 21 at 7 PM and Nov. 18 at 4 PM.

“High-school is a great time to give students an opportunity to see what their choices are,” said Patel. “Even if they choose not to continue on in biology or even science at all, that’s fine, because what they learn at MBL will help to create a well-educated public in making decisions.”

Collecting specimens in Woods Hole with the High School Science Discovery Program. These students hail from St. Anne’s-Belfield School in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Top photo: Eve Cai of St. Anne’s-Belfield School watches as MBL Research Assistant Anthony Rodríguez-Vargas shows her how to use a microinjection needle to conduct CRISPR Cas9 gene editing.