Twelve UWG research assistants recently presented their research to hundreds of high school students during a STEM poster session at Lithia Springs High School.
An average of 60 high school students at a time rotated to the various stations to listen to presentations in 30-minute increments. UWG students shared their project ideas, data collection and conclusions with the LSHS students as they took notes.
“I believe that the poster session was one of the most interesting academic events we have hosted at LSHS,” says Elaine Wood, science coordinator at LSHS.
Dr. Sharmistha Basu-Dutt, UWG’s director of engineering studies and professor of chemistry, organized the event. “Faculty directed student research is a pervasive culture in the College of Science and Mathematics at UWG and is conducted by a large number of students with strong institutional and extramural support,” she says. “Through this experience, students have ownership for their projects and learn many important scientific and communication skills. At the LSHS STEM poster session, UWG students passionately shared their knowledge of science and enthusiastically served as UWG ambassadors to showcase the exciting opportunities available to STEM majors. We hope to host similar events at other area high schools and thank COSM Dean ’s office and the UWise program for providing financial support for this and future events.”
“It is a part of COSM’s mission to promote enthusiasm for science and mathematics among local and regional youth, and I am ecstatic with the efforts of UWG students, who are outstanding and passionate ambassadors,” adds Dr. Farooq S. Khan, dean of UWG’s College of Science and Mathematics. “I am also grateful to all the faculty mentors who supervised the students’ research.”
The STEM Initiative is an effort by the University System of Georgia to respond to national and state challenges in STEM education through the UWise, or University of West Georgia Institutional STEM Excellence, grant. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In addition to pedagogical innovations, it also promotes faculty-directed undergraduate research and is now in its third year of funding with Dr. Myrna Gantner, associate vice president for Academic Affairs, as the principal investigator and Dr. Swamy Mruthinti, associate dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, as the co-principal investigator.
“In physics we pride ourselves in involving students in research and there are times when students' achievements are so fulfilling they get to be published,” says UWG Physics Professor Dr. Javier Hasbun. “That makes the entire accomplishment very valuable. Students and teachers become joint authors. Many of our students get to present their work at conferences or at other venues. This is an important aspect of scientific training. This is true whether it is an oral or poster presentation.”
“The idea is that it is through the exposition of one's work that one gets input from the audience, especially experts who might be present,” Dr. Hasbun continues. “The scientific process depends very much on the review process and our students learn to relish that as well as to appreciate the skills they gain in presenting their work. Explaining their work to a group of high school students is extremely important for it enables our researchers to hone their understanding of their field while preparing them for future challenges in their careers.”
In addition to learning more about research finding, LSHS students also had the opportunity to hear UWG students briefly talk about their college experiences at UWG.
“As an undergraduate at West Georgia, I received access to operate $400 thousand equipment on a daily basis from the age of 18,” shares chemistry student Brett Kimball during his presentation. “I would not have had the opportunity to experience that equipment at a larger university.”
UWG physics student Christopher Roper was also excited to share the impact that UWG has had on him with the students.
“As a presenter, it was truly a humbling experience to be able to give insight on the countless opportunities that STEM research has to offer,” says Christopher. “Being able to represent the University of West Georgia’s Physics Department to a younger audience is such an honor. I really enjoyed the fact that I could help guide students into the world of Physics.”
Christopher says he feels that students need to be introduced to science, technology, engineering and mathematics and any related subjects at a very early age. “It is extremely vital that younger students are aware of the numerous possibilities that these fields have to offer,” he adds. “We are the next generation entering the work field. The STEM fields are significantly in need for more qualified people. If we can start early and introduce these subjects to younger audience members, then I truly believe that students will be inspired to pursue STEM as a possible career choice. I want to show students to not be afraid to take a challenge and to follow their dreams.”
UWG students were accompanied by Dr. Javier Hasbun, UWG physics professor; Dr. Vickie Geisler, UWG chemistry professor; and Dr. Aijth DeSilva, UWG physics professor. UWG presenters included chemistry students Brett Kimball, Brandon Rittgers and; pre-engineering student Zach Duncan; geosciences student Helena Baldwin; biology students Trisha Dalapati and Katherine Smith; and physics students Ryan Landry, Christopher Roper, Natalee Hite, Samed Obeng and Marucs Davis.