Students set new sights after summer scholar program


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — A group of area high school students were in class over the summer. They’re doing it to be a part of cutting-edge research. It’s part of the Young Scholars Program.

A summer spent in a lab coat isn’t what these students had in mind. For some, it’s a chance they haven’t had before.

“I never had these types of opportunities at my old town, so it was just a really nice way for me to open my eyes and see a new experience.”

A pair of Central students, with help from UI grad students, are researching super hydrophobic surfaces; a complicated subject to understand, but these ladies have it boiled down.

“In industries, like steam and power plants, they need surfaces that repel the water so it uses less energy.”

“It’s like a metal surface. It could be like aluminum copper and you can coat them with different structures so water can repel off of it.”

But, the goal of the program isn’t just to have students to research.

“I think it’s really important to keep that pipeline going to get younger people interested in careers in science and engineering.”

Joe Muskin is the program director. He says, what these students get to do differently from what they would get to do in a high school lab, makes their experience extremely valuable.

“In research, you never know what’s going to happen and you learn that failure is an important part of research. You learn so much from failure which often doesn’t happen in school.”

As they think about what comes after high school, they know their time here will play a part in making those decisions.

“It’s opened my eyes and created an open space for me to discover new things. This kind of shows me the science-side of things and lets me do hands-on work in a lab.”

They’ve been in the lab for six weeks. In that time, more than just chemical bonds have been made.

“My partner has really helped me and been a really good support system throughout this whole thing because it can really get stressful and tiring, but after overcoming all those challenges, it’s worth it.”

When school starts back up, the students will come back to the lab two hours per week. In February, they’ll present their findings at the Emerging Researchers National Conference, in Washington, D.C.

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