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NYC High School Students Graduate from Museum Research Program

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Three high school students stand near a poster display.
Katie Bartel, Becky Stoner, and Sophia Wilansky researched multiple star systems with a scientist from the Museum’s Department of Astrophysics. 
© AMNH/R. Mickens

The sense of accomplishment–and promise of things to come–was palpable last week as more than 40 students from high schools across New York City graduated from the Museum’s Science Research Mentoring Program (SRMP), which pairs Museum researchers with New York City teens for two years of intensive research on an original project.

“Being in this program helped me pick my major,” said Anastasia Bromberg, a senior at Brooklyn Technical High School who studied the diversity of snakes in Southeast Asia and will be attending the University of Miami in the fall. “I was thinking about psychology but now I know I want to be a researcher in marine biology. This program cemented that.”

“I really like physics, and now I’ve had a taste of astrophysics,” said Katie Bartel, a junior at Horace Mann High School, who along with Sophia Wilansky of Fiorello LaGuardia High School and Becky Stoner of Spence School studied multiple star systems. “This program is the best—it’s really cool.”

This year’s graduates worked on projects as diverse as analyzing the geochemistry of metabasaltic rocks, DNA testing for human-infecting pathogens in commercial mussels, and investigating the dynamics of the 2010 Haiti cholera outbreak. During the course of their research, students had access to the Museum’s state-of-the-art laboratories and worked with mentors from the Center for Conservation Biology, the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics, the Department of Ornithology, the Department of Herpetology, the Division of Paleontology, the Department of Astrophysics, the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, and the Microscopy and Imaging Facility.

“The program offers kids something they cannot get anywhere else, which is the chance to conduct authentic research under the loving guidance of the Museum scientists—who probably get as much out of it as the kids,” said Ruth Cohen, director of the Museum’s Center for Lifelong Learning

All of the 2011 SRMP seniors have been accepted to college, including to such highly competitive institutions as Cornell University, Columbia University, New York University, and University of Pennsylvania.

In their first year in the program, the teens, many from groups underrepresented in the sciences, attended after-school classes in relevant subject areas. A summer session allowed students a chance to hone their skills and explore their research interests. Then, during the second year, the students were matched with the mentors who helped them conduct their particular project after school at the Museum during the academic year.

Beyond the academic advantages of the program, many students spoke of the pleasure of working with other students who understand their passion for science and learning. “These are people I want to be associated with,” said Jakub Karas, a senior at James Madison High School in Brooklyn who is planning to study engineering at Columbia University. “I hope we will remain friends.”

Learn more about the NSF Science Research Mentoring Program.