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Boston University’s Center for Polymer Studies and The New York Hall of Science have been funded $1.2M by the National Science Foundation’s Information Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) Program. CAS Professor of Physics Gene Stanley (director of the Polymer Center) and Polymer Center Senior Research Scientist Paul Trunfio will head the project for BU. The project, Network Science for the Next Generation, known as “NetSci High,” will provide extensive opportunities for disadvantaged high school students to engage in year-round cutting-edge science research and industry internships.
Participants are 120 disadvantaged high school students from the Boston area and New York area, 30 science research graduate student mentors from partner laboratories, and 30 high school STEM teacher-mentors. An exciting new area of research applies network science, including cyber-infrastructures and computational and database approaches, to solve some of the most complex problems facing our society today. This shift in research with its extensive reliance on information technology tools and datasets, requires a corresponding shift in the education community that helps prepare the next generation of STEM workforce.
Highlights of this funded 3-year program include:
-‐ 1-week Summer Camp for all participants, introducing tools of network science and explorations of team-based research projects
-‐ 4-week intensive summer research experience at participating laboratories
-‐ Academic year research program utilizing collaborative IT tools, periodic special workshops, industry lab tours and “virtual visits”
-‐ ITEST NetSci Research Conference held at BU where students present the results of their work at the end of the year long experience with keynotes and an “IT Opportunity Fair” hosted by local industry partners
-‐ Summer IT internships with industry and academic partners
This experience is funded to repeat for three years, with 30 high school students in the first year, 40 in the second, and 50 in the third (and appropriate scaling of other participants). A challenge of this project is one of transforming the way we educate our citizens to keep pace with not only the amount of data we collect, but to appreciate how networks of data interact to identify, clarify, and solve complex 21st century challenges in the environment, medicine, agriculture, urbanization, social justice and wellbeing. This project will provide a pathway to integration of science research and IT skills for high school students who would not otherwise have opportunities provided through this project. Additionally, high school teachers and graduate student mentors (ITEST Fellows) will be key participants. For 30 ITEST Fellows, they will gain valuable experience in the issues surrounding K-12 science education and gain an appreciation for education outreach.
Up to 30 high school teacher mentors will broaden their STEM understanding and, through their participation, the project aims to inform their current teaching in terms of content and practice.