Trading Laps in the Pool for Labs at School
Galloway, N.J. — Summer as we know it is usually reserved for vacations, trips to the beach, sitting by the pool and leisurely strolls on the Boardwalk. But for some undergraduate students in Stockton’s School of Natural Sciences & Mathematics (NAMS) and high school seniors in the Army Education Outreach Program (AEOP), summertime is the best time for research.
Thanks to Barry Pemberton, assistant professor of Chemistry, the 11 students got the opportunity to network and present their research to each other in the new Celebration of Summer Research presentation series on Thursday, Aug. 10.
According to Pemberton, the series’ purpose is to have students give an informal presentation to a wider audience, allow them to reflect on the progress they’ve made and give them the chance to see what other students are doing on and off campus over the summer.
In essence, he hopes they will inspire each other to continue research on their various projects.
“We've always had AEOP students, I believe since 2017, doing research in some capacity and it's always been one of those things where it's like, we've got so many other students, why don't we have them present as well and see if we can get this groundswell of student, faculty and institutional support? I want more students from more research groups out here to experience this and to see what other students are doing,” Pemberton shared.
Two of those students, Joshua Heng from Ocean City High School and Kaleb Uturbey from Egg Harbor Township High School, spent the summer exploring Stockton’s Unified Science Centers, meeting faculty and undergraduate NAMS students and conducting research on producing new classes of chromophores (the part of a molecule responsible for its color) and finding efficient systems for three different protein kinetics.
“This has been really fun and really different from what I experienced in high school," Heng said. "I would definitely recommend this program to my peers. I learned a lot about chemistry and got to experience a college campus. I’m definitely going to apply to Stockton.”
“The program is interesting: it's not entirely what I expected, but I also didn't fully have that much of an understanding of exactly how research projects went in general, so it was definitely a good experience being able to have that hands-on experience rather than just either reading about it or seeing little clips and articles,” Uturbey said. “It's definitely an experience that I will carry with me when thinking of where I want to go for future studies and college in general, and definitely something I was glad to have gotten to do.”
Elizabeth Pollock, associate professor of Chemistry, was Uturbey’s mentor for her project. Pollock, who started mentoring AEOP students last year, believes the program helps high schoolers transition into seasoned student researchers.
“It was always fun to have students who aren't yet necessarily as far along in their career getting to sort of experience lab and becoming just as competent in the lab as sometimes more senior students just by virtue of being prepared to be engaged and really committing to coming in every day and getting some stuff done,” Pollock said. “I hope Kaleb gets a better sense of what research life is really like, the scientific process in general and realizing that it's perfectly OK not to have results at the end of a project, which is incredibly common in science.”
Other presentation topics ran the gamut of the sciences, including electrochemistry, inlet surveying and Roman spectroscopy. Amanda Norvell, dean of NAMS, was “tremendously impressed” by the students’ presentations and what they accomplished over the summer and grateful to the Stockton faculty, who served as mentors throughout the process.
“The opportunity to immerse themselves in original, hands-on research can be truly transformative, as it gives these students the chance to experience what it is like to be a scientist – to troubleshoot technical problems, learn to manage their time and the pacing of their experiments and to experience the satisfaction of discovering something new. The Celebration symposium was a wonderful forum for them to share their projects with colleagues, friends, and family – I hope it is the first of many such events,” Norvell shared.
Like Norvell, Pemberton hopes to see the presentation series expand and include more students, staff and faculty within NAMS.
“I want students and faculty to get an idea of what's happening in research on campus,” Pemberton said. “They should experience every part of the research experience, from starting a project to failing to succeeding to presenting. All of that is part of this whole process for the dissemination of science.”
More NAMS Student Research
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Galloway, N.J. – Environmental Science major Jayden Hamlet presented original research at a national conference in Salt Lake City in June.
The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) Annual Conference gathers more than 2,500 public health epidemiologists and researchers to a conference that includes workshops, roundtable discussions, poster presentations and more.
– Story and photos by Loukaia Taylor