BEST practice

By Abby Rhodes
August 12, 2011

As high schools across the country cut corners in science education, Bradley remains committed to giving young researchers internship opportunities alongside nationally renowned faculty and experts in laboratories and institutes in the Peoria area. In its seventh year this summer, the Building Excellent Scientists for Tomorrow program paired local high school students with researchers in Bradley science labs and other partnering institutions, such as OSF Saint Francis Medical Center.

Catrina Warren, a junior from Manual High School, joined Dr. Jennifer Jost and undergraduate biology students in studying zebra mussels, invasive creatures responsible for decimating natural habitats and causing millions of dollars in damage to property in and around Illinois waterways.

“They’re making a big impact here, destroying boats and engines and companies’ fresh water systems,” Warren said. “We looked at how they respond to changes in temperature and other changes in habitat.”

This was Warren’s second year participating in the BEST program, an experience that is helping her decide what area of science best suits her interests and strengths. “It was really interesting, and also a way to answer questions like, ‘Do I want to work in a lab every day, or choose an area of science that is less lab-based?’” Warren said. “I want to go into pharmaceutical research, so I’m looking into the different options for that.”

“Catrina has been a breath of fresh air in my lab this summer,” Jost said. “She has literally submerged herself in the Illinois River to collect animals, harvested shellfish tissue from the shell, ground tissues using liquid nitrogen – and did it all with a smile.”

Israel Henderson, also a senior at Manual High School, interned in Dr. Sherri Morris’ lab this summer where students and faculty are collaborating in an ongoing study of garlic mustard and its impact on native habitats.

“What I really want to do is become an engineer or an architect, so I want to learn everything I can about how to protect native habitats and ways to build without destroying the environment,” Henderson said.

Warren and Henderson will join nine other BEST interns in presenting their summer research during a symposium at the Garrett Center Aug. 12. Seven students in Bradley’s Research Experience for Undergraduates program will also present, as well as 15 teachers involved in the environmental science education master’s degree program.

Every high school student who has participated in the BEST program has gone on to graduate from high school and attend college, with most seeking degrees in science or engineering fields.  Many former interns are now attending Bradley and now serve as undergraduate mentors to high school students.

“These outcomes demonstrate the undeniable impact of the BEST program in furthering personal growth and economic development by fostering future science professionals,” said Dr. Kelly McConnaughay, BEST program director and associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.