Four area high schoolers won’t go home after school next Thursday.
Instead, they’ll head to Longwood’s Fall Showcase for Research and Creative Inquiry, where they will present their own research alongside hundreds of college students.
I always sort of liked science, but I never imagined spending all day doing this. It’s making me think differently about what I want to do with my life and going to college.Antonio Harvey, a senior at Prince Edward County High School Tweet This
The high-school students’ participation in the showcase is the result of an innovative new research program called Longwood Summer Scholars: Exploring Science, launched this summer by Dr. Sarah Porter, associate professor of chemistry and co-coordinator of the spring and fall research showcases. The program gave the young students a taste of intense, college-level work over eight weeks this summer as they collaborated with top Longwood students and professors in the PRISM program.
“It was a better summer than I could have dreamed of,” said Antonio Harvey, a senior at Prince Edward County High School. “I always sort of liked science, but I never imagined spending all day doing this. It’s making me think differently about what I want to do with my life and going to college.”
On Nov. 21, the four high-school students will present their research posters at the showcase from 4:25-5:05 p.m. in the Upchurch University Center Soza Ballroom. There, amid other college-level research posters, they’ll answer questions from professors and other members of the community interested in their work.
We had to get up to speed really quickly, but once we learned the processes and some of the technology in the lab, it started to make sense. I really liked learning this stuff and felt like we really accomplished something by the end.Abriel Johnson, a student at Prince Edward County High School Tweet This
The showcase starts at 3:30 p.m. and comprises research projects from a variety of disciplines across campus. A full schedule can be found here and the broader community is warmly invited to attend.
The Virginia Business-Higher Education Council, a nonprofit organization that advocates for higher education across the commonwealth, is promoting the Fall Showcase through their Growth4VA campaign, a multiyear effort to highlight innovative educational opportunities for greater access and affordable pathways across Virginia’s higher education institutions. Representatives from Growth4VA will be on hand at the showcase to highlight student research through social media and other channels.
By partnering with the American Chemical Society and Army Educational Outreach Program, Porter launched the summer research program to target high schoolers from historically underrepresented populations in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields. Students from across South-Central Virginia were invited to apply, and four budding scientists chosen.
Abriel Johnson and Antonio Harvey, from Prince Edward County High School, and Tanea Doswell and Katelynn McCrillis from Randolph-Henry High School in Charlotte County, spent hours in the lab, poring over notes and running experiments alongside Longwood professors and students in the PRISM program. Lab work is notoriously long and quiet, but moments of breakthrough were instantly memorable. Tanea Doswell worked with Dr. Benjamin Topham, assistant professor of chemistry, on creating components for electrical circuits at the molecular level.
“My favorite moment was testing a molecule we had designed, and the results were amazing,” she said. “We had been building these molecules on the computer and running simulations, testing how current flowed through them. We had a little success, but we added some benzene rings to the ends of one molecule, and the results were through the roof. It was an incredible feeling, seeing that result come through.”
It was a big leap in both expectations and scientific understanding that the four high schoolers were asked to make, but all of them rose to the challenge, building the kind of mentoring relationships with students and professors that are a signature Longwood experience.
“It was tough at first,” said Abriel Johnson, who worked with Dr. Jonathan White, assistant professor of chemistry. “We had to get up to speed really quickly, but once we learned the processes and some of the technology in the lab, it started to make sense. I really liked learning this stuff and felt like we really accomplished something by the end.”