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Faculty Focus: Giving High School Students a Head Start in Undergraduate Research
03.22.13 |
Last year, Austin Hornberger ’16 had the opportunity to collaborate with an LVC professor on a scientific research project—even before he had graduated from high school. The then North Schuylkill School District senior wanted to become involved in a meaningful science project. He and his high school science teacher contacted Dr. Walter Patton, associate professor of chemistry and director of the program in biochemistry and molecular biology, for ideas.

“Austin knew he liked chemistry and biochemistry, but he wasn’t really sure what he wanted to do,” said Patton. “He and his teacher, Betty Terry, came down for the afternoon and we talked about a project that dealt with the analysis of potential new sources of biofuels. What we put together for Austin was evaluating and refining a green method for him to assess the biofuel potential of plant materials.”

Hornberger worked on the project throughout the year, and even submitted his work for a scholarship competition. Although he didn’t get the scholarship award, his February 2011 presentation of that work won first place in the high school division of the Annual Poster Competition held by the Philadelphia Section of the American Chemical Society at Temple University.

“It was a great experience for Austin to be involved in a project in high school,” Patton said. “He is enrolled in our freshman chemistry lab courses this year, and I think his research experience is continuing to provide real insight into how to work and think in a laboratory.”

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