High School students investigate archaeal DNA repair
Over the summers, we host high school students (including 10th and 11th grades) from Pullman, Washington in the lab. Students learn basic molecular and microbiological techniques and contribute to ongoing NSF-funded research on basic DNA repair mechanisms in archaea. At the same time, these students discover that working in a research laboratory and being a scientist can also be fun. This internship opportunity fully immerses high school students in active NSF-funded laboratory research where they directly participate in ongoing scientific inquiry about how DNA is repaired in the poorly understood third domain of life. Their involvement in the project allows them to see "beyond the textbook" in a way they never have before and can change their impression of what it means to be a scientist. Most of the students take the single required high school Biology course in 10th grade prior to arrival for the summer. This internship experience at Washington State University integrates a classroom-style description of methods and techniques with immediate hands-on application at the bench. Through this experience, students are quickly involved in an active research laboratory and get to do just about everything that researchers do on a daily basis. Thus far, high school student efforts have produced DNA expression clones that are important for understanding the roles of specific proteins during DNA repair in Sulfolobus solfataricus, an extremophilic microbe that lives in nearly boiling, acid hot springs. Participation of these students in this activity has impacted their perspective on research and encouraged them to be involved in the sciences in the future.
Berit Paxson-Tarnai, eleventh grade student at Pullman High School, loads a DNA gel.
"When I … sat down for my interview for a National Science Foundation summer internship position, I had no way of knowing the opportunity would change my life irreversibly. Before taking this internship position, I had my heart set on a career in civil engineering. But after discovering my aptitude and love for the lab work involved in this internship, I’m more interested now in majoring in biotechnology or biochemistry."
Pullman High School eleventh grader Tony Wang performs a restriction digest.
"... I had originally thought that labs were pretty dull and didn’t want to go into a lab. Now, I would be happy to volunteer in a lab because I know that labs can be fun. If I could do this internship over again, I definitely would."
Eleventh Grade Pullman High School Students Sarel Loewus (L) and Laura DeWald (R) work at the bench.
"I can honestly say that this NSF-funded microbiology internship has changed my plans for the future. The sense of discovery that I experienced this summer provided me with a peek into the wide world of science and I am completely overpowered by the idea of being a scientist myself. My goals for the future now include majoring in, not international relations, but molecular biology or biochemistry. I even want to take it one step further by getting a PhD and being able to conduct my own research some day." -Sarel
"I began the internship with the idea that working in a lab might be boring and tedious...After just a short amount of time my perspective changed and I began to enjoy spending my days exploring microbiology." -Laura
Pullman High School eleventh grader Danielle Sewell hard at work.
"The lab internship showed me how real science works; it is not an empty process of steps, but an ardent search for knowledge fueled by curiosity. I felt firsthand the excitement and sometimes disappointment of trying things that may or may not succeed. Science changed for me when I discovered it wasn’t what I had been taught, but what I chose to seek out. This experience has changed my plans in a way I didn’t consider. I now know whatever I do in the future will involve science because of the realizations made during this internship and because I will never stop searching for knowledge due to my growing curiosity regarding the world around me."
Gaby Wilgus, Pullman High School tenth grade student, sets up an experiment.
"My summer spent as an intern at the WSU School of Molecular Biosciences introduced me to how scientific research is performed in a university lab, as opposed to a high school science class. I realized that science is not at all about textbooks or tedious research, but instead about hands-on and experimental lab work that is both fun and informative. Previously I did not consider a scientific career even as an option for me, but I am now more open to the idea of science as an interesting and fun career choice that goes way beyond memorizing terms and reading textbooks."