Saturday, September 3, 2011

Good Job, Project SEED 2011

I just want to congratulate Marissa and Liz for their awesome work in Denver. Both did an exceptional job at the Sci-Mix poster session and earned those three days off from school. They represented and advocated for our program very well, helping to make sure that Project SEED is available to needy students for years to come.

Also, congratulations to all of Duquesne's 2011 Project Seedlings. We had an productive, rigorous, and hopefully rewarding summer. Good luck in if you're off to college, and work hard if you're back in high school.

Thanks to Duquesne's University, the Department of Chem and Biochem, and all of the exceptional staff, grad students, and professors. Your contributions to the education of these children will be well remembered as they age and proceed through their careers. They will cite you in future meetings and conversations as individuals and mentors who changed their perspective. That's a cool thing and a profound way to maintain the continuity of our culture.

On a personal note, thank your for your continued support of my research and the opportunity to continue to serve the Project SEED students.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Few Pictures From Denver...

One of the first days in Denver we spent some time exploring the city. This is Liz and I, with the city behind us, right before we went to Starbucks for a drink. The dry air made me really thirsty.
Mountains, mountains, mountains and still....more mountains. The part of Denver that we stayed in felt relatively flat, but once we drove out a little bit it was obvious we were in the Rockys.

Another cool part of the trip was the tour of the Cave of the Winds. It felt like a very tourist-y spot to visit, but it was still fun. The tour guide led us through cavers, explaining how they came to be, and telling ghost stories. The caves also had very good acoustics (one of the owners wanted to put an orchestra inside).

Of course, when you're in Denver you have to visit the mountains. We spent some time climbing rocks and enjoying the views from atop.

The aquarium in Denver was huge! It had so many different fish also had a tiger! But, really there were so many! Not all were as colorful as this tank, but it was still interesting. The rooms were really decorated and realistic; one room simulated a flashflood with raging waters and a ceiling that simulated a storm. At the end they had a shallow stingray tank were you could softly graze your hands over the fish.

The Hard Rock Cafe was definitely one of the best places we ate in Denver. We tried a lot of different foods, but the burgers here were my favorite.

There was a lot of art in Denver. Some of which included many different pianos all painted with different designs, set up periodically all down the main street. I can't play, but I wish I could.

Grand Finale

Well, I guess this is it. No more Project SEED. In a way, I'm happy. I've done some research that amazes my friends, gone on field trips to places I certainly wouldn't see otherwise, made new friends and learned so much. Plus I can do something else next summer too! But it's also sad because all of that's gone now, and I'm left with just memories. I'll miss the professors, the students, being amazed and confused as I go through my first week trying to figure out what my project is. Overall, the most rewarding part was the education and the experience. How many high school students can say they already have two summers of undergraduate research on their application essays? Or presented at poster symposiums, both at a college and at a national ACS conference in Denver, Colorado. Nope, not many. But Project SEED wasn't isn't just something to put on a college application. It helped me grow into someone who looks at the world scientifically; questioning, investigating, being skeptical when necessary and accepting nothing short of the facts.

I'm not sure if it's something that can be easily reflected upon now, I think it's easier to look at your teen years once you're done with them, but I know that this has helped me mature a lot. Being around people that highly educated (more so than regular high school students) exerts a certain peer pressure, the good kind, that helps with that. I feel more involved in science now. I care about new discoveries and research and what's happening in the world around me. I realize it's important because most things will effect me in one way or another. I've just learned so much, and it's hard to express in words exactly what the experience was like. What I can say is, if anyone is considering a career in science, in chemistry specifically, do Project SEED. It's opened up a lot doors and certainly had an influence on my college choices and majors. I can't think of any cons, except that maybe you have to get up early in the summer, but I promise it's worth it.

Thank you to everyone who helped make Project SEED possible, both across the nation and at Duquesne. I'm not sure how much you hear gratitude from the SEED students, but we all really are quite grateful. Thanks again and please continue your efforts.

Goodbye Project SEED

Project SEED has taught me so much about myself, and what I am most grateful for is the confidence it has given me. I do not attend a very challenging school so Project SEED showed me that when I am challenged I can step up and succeed. I will never forget my first week of Project SEED when I received articles written by Professors and scientist for other professionals in the field. The reading was beyond my comprehension. I read page after page unable to understand a word of it. Then when I finally finished reading the article I would sit stunned, because I was just as well off as before I read the article. I understood absolutely nothing. It was like reading another language and honestly it was another language. It was scientific language where the reader was expected to know the jargon. Reading one paper took me, well a very long time. Last year I became a better reader, and a somewhat better writer. I also became a more independent person. In high school I always had someone pushing me to do my best, but in Project SEED I didn’t have someone pushing me to do better. I focused on completing my work when it needed to be done and working when I knew I should be and asking questions when I really needed to. Being a high school student in an academic lab I realized that I had to learn very quickly and the only way I could do that was by asking questions. In high school if you don’t understand something you’re usually not the only one that is clueless so you didn’t have to ask all the questions, other students would. I didn’t have that. Project SEED puts you in the situation where you might be clueless, but you have people that can help you. You have to know what you don’t know and ask those questions until you understand the subject you’re trying to learn inside and out, because when you present your data it is going to be to people that don’t understand a word of it, so you have to explain it for them in a way that they can easily understand what you are saying. This is something I learned from my advisor Mr. Lucas who I went to for many reasons, one of them being my inability to understand what i don’t understand. When I did my work I could easily explain why I did each step and how, but I didn’t understand why I used the things I used or how they are better compared to other things and I realized that I still didn’t understand so much. Mr. Lucas showed me that I didn’t understand...anything. So I had to ask a plethora of questions. Now I understand my research inside and out.

Project SEED has also given me an idea of what I want in a college. Spending two summers at Duquesne has allowed for me to experience a medium size college. It has given me a chance to see if I would want to go to a college the same size as Duquesne or if I preferred a smaller or bigger college. Another way Project SEED helped me pick where I want to attend in the future,was the visit we took to Washington and Jefferson. Duquesne is a similar size to Duquesne, but they are very different and Washington and Jefferson is a college that I am considering going to. The opportunities there are very good, and although it is not a big college it still has many things to offer.

Doing Project SEED has also given me the opportunity to decide if I want to choose a career in science. I had opportunities to experience what it is like to work in academia as a scientist and had the chance to see science in industry. Having the chance to talk with people that have done both academia and industry and get advice from them about why they chose their careers was something I am very grateful for.

So overall, Project SEED has really been life changing. Of course there were times when it was really stressful and I felt discouraged, but once I overcame those moments I felt like a stronger person. I really feel like I can take on the world. Last but definitely not least I am so happy I had the chance to meet people from other schools who have similar interests as me, and become such great friends with them. I even had a chance to meet and become friends with people from my school that I did not know very well. The friends that I have made from this experience have become more like an extended family. I still talk to and hang out with students from last years Project SEED, and I feel like I will this year as well. Project SEED is awesome and a great summer experience. Actually, my little brother is very interested in science as well, and I am encouraging him to apply for Project SEED. It really does change who you are.

Goodbye Project SEED and thank you for all you have done for me! You will be missed!