Detroit high schoolers present chemistry research on campus
Over 100 community members came out to the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History Friday to hear Cass Technical High School students share demonstrations based off their research while working with University professors and graduate students over the past seven weeks.
Students involved were part of the Detroit Research Internship Summer Program (D-RISE), an initiative lead by the University’s Department of Chemistry that provides rising seniors at Detroit’s Cass Tech high school the opportunity to participate in authentic scientific research and get exposure to the college life experience of living on campus.
Different from years past, the initiative aimed to develop a new way for participants to showcase aspects of their work with the community, creating a “Portal-to-the-Public” with hands-on activities for kids, classmates and the public to engage with and learn about their research.
Mohammad Hossain, a rising senior at Cass Tech and D-RISE participant, said working directly with University mentors and professors has helped him shape his perspective in viewing his own research and become more determined.
“There’s problems we’ve run into, so it kind of helped me to just be more resilient and persistent about my research,” Hosain said. “You know what you want from research, and you know what you want to see, but it’s kind of hard to just make machines work.”
With the initiative’s new tactic to help students develop their skills in communicating their work in research with different audiences, he shared how, through doing demonstrations with kids, he had to change his approach to science in ways he never had to before.
“You have to kind of let go some of the terms that you use usually with the research you’ve focused on and kind of relate it to things they know,” Hosain said. “For instance since we’re studying the pH of particles in our atmosphere, (kids) they’re not too familiar with acids and bases, but if you relate acids to apple juice and bases to soap, it helps them relate, it’s different.”
Fellow D-RISE participant Maria Evans, Cass Tech rising senior, said she knew she had a passion for the science, but the initiative has helped put into perspective what a career in chemistry would be like.
“Coming here for seven weeks really opened my eyes to chemistry,” Evans said. “I wanted to do biology, I wanted to be a doctor, but chemistry is so different, and maybe I want to go into chemistry now. It really opened my eyes more and I never even really thought to do research as a career.”
She said living on campus throughout the program has made her more eager to continue her education.
“It makes me want to go to college more,” Evans said.
D-RISE participant Joshua McIntosh explained being able to come to the University and conduct hands-on research that will allow him to gain real-world experiences in everyday problem solving and going about conducting scientific research.
“The experience really opened my eyes,” McIntosh said. “You learn these things in science class, but to actually see it in research and see the different chemicals you need to use and different techniques to problem solve, it shows you in life things are not just perfect. Everything is not a straight line, there’s curves and dents, winds and twirls, and all the rest.”