Students at Centre College are often eager for intellectual challenges beyond the traditional classroom, and thanks to faculty-sponsored research initiatives and the Centre Commitment — which guarantees all students an internship or research experience (in addition to study abroad and graduation in four years) — there is a wide range of opportunities for students to take their undergraduate education to the next level. One such initiative gives students the chance both to engage in original research and connect with the Danville community by mentoring younger students interested in science.
Assistant Professor of Biology Brian Storz teamed up with Mike Tetirick, a biology teacher at Boyle County Middle School, to create a new collaborative research endeavor with their students. Ten biology undergraduates are matched with two to three eighth grade students to conduct research on the effects of the common herbicide RoundUp® on the development of a transparent species of tadpole. According to Storz, the program has benefited all the students involved.
“The Boyle County Middle School students are getting a chance to do original research and have a hands-on experience with the scientific process,” Storz explains. “And the Centre undergrads are getting the chance to hone their research skills by mentoring them.”
One undergraduate mentor, Bridgit Morris ’15, hopes that this collaboration will foster a lasting interest in science in the younger students.
“This may be the first time they’ve ever done anything like this,” Morris explains. “The more smoothly I can guide them through the process, the more they will enjoy it, and hopefully continue to have an interest in biology, or science in general.”
“This collaboration is a way to get eighth grade students more intimately involved in the scientific process, rather than just reading about it in the classroom,” he says.
Tetirick believes his student also learn from the positive example Centre students set.
“My students see scientific work being done at a higher level at Centre,” he explains. “They see students close to their own age fully involved and committed to science. This collaboration has helped to legitimize the world of science and the world of higher education for all my students.”
Another undergraduate mentor, Josh Karsner ’15 [pictured bottom, right], says that this research initiative is just as valuable for Centre students.
“As a new or even seasoned scientist, it’s important not only to be able to conduct productive research but also to be able to successfully communicate with others what you are doing, what your results were and why a given experiment is important,” says Karsner.
Storz also notes that since this research has never been done before, it is relevant to the students and the scientific community at large.
“We will potentially produce some very interesting data that can be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal,” he says, “which is a win for all of us.”
Karnser also believes the work he and the other students are doing will have a broader impact on each of them.
“Ultimately, this is much more than an experiment,” he says. “It is an opportunity for growth.”
by Caitlan Cole ’14 and Josh Karsner ’15