HSTA Educators Participate in Summer Research Program

The WV-INBRE has partnered with the Health Science Technology Academy (HSTA) program which is funded by the NCRR and headquartered at WVU. The partnership is designed to encourage undergraduate students who have demonstrated an interest in biomedical research through their participation in the HSTA program while in high school in West Virginia to participate in biomedical research once they enroll in one of the PUIs. One component of the joint program is to provide opportunities for high school science educators to participate in biomedical research for up to nine weeks during the summer with a mentor at either West Virginia University, Marshall University, or one of the funded mentors at a PUI. Participation is open to high school science educators who teach in the state of West Virginia during the previous academic school year. The goal of this part of the program is to provide research opportunities to interested science teachers with the expectation they will take their research experience back into their classrooms and inspire their students to pursue biomedical research opportunities once they enter college. Additionally, it is anticipated that the techniques they learn from the research will enhance the scientific teaching experience in the classroom

This past summer seven teachers participated in the program by conducting a biomedical research project and presenting the results of their projects at the Summer Research Symposium held on July 29th at West Virginia University. HSTA teacher Denise Gipson from Jefferson High School in Shenandoah Junction, WV, worked in the lab of Dr. Alexey Ivanov at West Virginia University Health Sciences Center; Celia Gwinn from Beckley-Stranton Middle School in Beckley, WV, conducted research under the direction of Dr. Tefaye Belay at Bluefield State College; Wendy Lee from Musselman High School in Inwood, WV worked with Dr. Joan Olson at West Virginia University Health Sciences Center; Dr. Yi Charlie Chen at Alderson-Broaddus College served as the mentor for Whitney Reger from Philip-Barbour High School in Philippi, WV; David Ruediger from Roane County High School in Spencer, WV worked with Dr. Shawn Jones at the University of Charleston; Dr. Nalini Santanam at Marshall University directed the research of Myriaha Selbe-Felker from Cabell Midland High School in Ona, WV; and Elizabeth Stanton from North Marion High School in Farmington, WV, worked with Dr. Gregory Dick at West Virginia University Health Sciences Center.

Comments from two of the teachers are presented below.


Denise Gipson in the lab

I have a master's degree in biochemistry (from 1988!), and I currently teach chemistry and physical science in Jefferson County. As last summer approached, I had quite a few trepidations about how my INBRE experience would turn out, but it turned out to be wonderful. I enjoyed seeing how much has changed in the 20+ years since I last worked in a research lab and how much has stayed the same. I also enjoyed being in the intellectually-stimulating environment of a university again. Everyone in Dr. Alexey Ivanov's lab, including Dr. Ivanov himself, was friendly, interesting, and helpful. Dr. Ivanov gave me a "real" project - not just busy work or housekeeping-type duties and pushed us all (he had a number of summer researchers) to do our best. Although I have a lot of familiarity with scientific journal writing, I had never done a poster before, and under Dr. Ivanov's guidance, I learned how to create one of highly professional quality. In addition, my experience will help me as a high school educator in numerous ways: 1) I gained a much better understanding of how an abstract relates to the entire presentation, which is extremely important with HSTA projects; 2) I received a wonderful update on where biochemical research is focusing today and learned about epigenetics - which didn't even exist 20 years ago; 3) I had the chance to work with all kinds of neat automated equipment that I will now be able to explain to my students - and I plan to do a few DNA technology labs with them; 4) I spoke with everyone I could find of college-type age to see what college is like now so I will be able to target my teaching to the skills students need today; and 5) I became reacquainted with how it feels to learn something new, so I will better be able to relate to my students as they struggle with new material. But most importantly of all, I saw that INBRE works - two of the summer researchers in Dr. Ivanov's lab caught the research bug and now plan to pursue research careers - which was a surprise to us all, including the students themselves.


Wendy Lee presenting at the Summer Research Symposium

As a high school science teacher, I found my INBRE experience to be invigorating and useful. In Dr. Olson's lab, I used techniques in the lab that were new. Technology changes very rapidly in science; so, learning about new ways to work in a lab is very beneficial to me as a teacher. I may not have the equipment for my students to use on a daily basis but I want them to know that the equipment exists. I will do this through showing the results of my experiments over the summer. I will also be talking about how and why we did the experiments this summer. I hope to peak the interest of my students so they will consider a science major in college.