[ back ]
Lab Link club experience opens science doors
Lab Link club experience opens science doors
By SUE HOFFMAN
Giving students a sampling of the world of opportunities in science is the aim of the Lab Link club at Solon High School, according to junior Chris Kaul, who serves as a co-president.
"We're giving students an opportunity to look at possibilities for their future," Chris said. "The major purpose of Lab Link is to go out to find mentors and place students with them."
Chris, one of several students at the high school who have benefited from the experience of such volunteer placements, has been working at Cleveland State University with chemistry professor Alan Riga analyzing a substance that would be used in a prosthetic leg.
"We're working to build a gel that can become tense and then relax on contact with slight electric impulses," Chris said. "The final goal of this project is to have the gel aid in total knee and elbow replacement to limit wear and tear on the prosthetics."
Chris, who has worked on the project for over a year, was asked by Dr. Riga to accompany him to the North American Thermal Analysis Society convention in Atlanta in August 2008. He also won the $100 first prize in the organization's undergraduate poster competition. This year, Chris has been asked to travel with Dr. Riga to present his work at a conference in Brazil.
Lab Link was created by Solon High School 2009 alumna Sloan Zimmerman, now a freshman at Harvard University. After two summers of volunteer internships in the Case Western Reserve University microfabrication laboratory, she decided to help other students find similar opportunities for hands-on research.
The student club, working with adviser Anthony Sanson, placed six students in summer volunteer internships in 2008 and eight in 2009. While Chris continues his mentorship throughout the year, most mentorships are 40 hours during the summer.
"The experience is priceless," said junior and co-President Trent Navran, who has been working at Case Western's Wickenden Biomedical Engineering Building with Professor Anirban Sen Gupta. Trent is shadowing each of Dr. Sen Gupta's students to observe their projects in the emerging area of nanomedicine. Projects include drug delivery via nanoparticles, polymer synthesis, biocompatibility and other methods of treating diseases.
Trent is currently assisting Dr. Sen Gupta in grant proposals to the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.
Lab Link club members said a recent science publication reported that in 2010, there could be a large deficit of scientists.
"Science has a bad connotation with many people," Trent said. "People think of the 'mad scientist.' Our goal is to let people know it's an amazing area to explore for future job opportunities."
The Lab Link club navigates through faculty sites at Case Western, Cleveland State and NASA Glenn Research Center "to see who in what field we might contact," Chris said. "We're continually building up our network of mentors."
Junior Samantha Kasper worked on a project with civil engineering Professor Arthur Huckelbridge at Case involving wind turbines.
"They had me look at different sources of information about wind turbine projects and I did an Excel grid," she said. The goal is to accumulate proposals for offshore wind turbines on Lake Erie, she said.
"It was a good introduction to the field," said Samantha, who is interested in a career in mechanical engineering.
Cory Pomerantz, a senior, interned with Jerry Myers at NASA Glenn Research Center. Dr. Myers is deputy project manager of the integrated medical model, which forecasts health risks associated with specific missions, equipment and consumables that impact crew health. Cory said he worked on two projects.
"The first project was the suit impact load attenuation," he said. "The purpose of SILAS is to determine how effective astronauts' spacesuits are at resisting impacts of varying intensity. The second was the Doppler ultrasound hematocrit project, which has the goal of finding a way to determine a person's blood characteristics by using ultrasound. It is essentially trying to find a non-invasive way to determine someone's health in a microgravity environment."
Senior Max Kolysh also did his mentorship at NASA, working with Dennis Stocker to learn how combustion and flames behave in a weightless environment.
Other Lab Link members were based at Case Western. They include senior Asheq Ahmed, who studied with Professor Dominique Durand the neuropathic mechanisms in rats and applications to reduce peripheral nerve pain in mammals. Junior Danny Haig, working under Professor Jing Li, coded programs that will be used to map and visualize DNA. Junior Sharon Wong worked under Professor Christian Zorman in microfabrication, which involves implanting devices to make previously paralyzed limbs functional.
Last weekend Lab Link hosted a banquet to honor their mentors. "Lab Link couldn't be a club without them," Chris said. "We wanted to show our appreciation and encourage them to continue working with us."
Mentors also expressed their appreciation, including Dr. Durand, of Solon. "Both my children went to Solon and I have been impressed with the quality of the education and background of the students from that program," he said. "I hope to get a few more students in my laboratory."
[ back ]