While some of their peers have spent their summer at the beach, 11 Hudson County high school students participated in the Liberty Science Center's Partners in Science Program, which provides hands-on internships with mentors already in the field.
Among theses students were Jose Moreno of Memorial High School in West New York, and Maria Torres, Amed Logrono, Christian Calderon and Gabriel Cummings of Union Hill High School in Union City.
"Science plays such a major role in society, and there's so much to chose from," said Torres. "This experience was great, and it made me aware of what career I may want to pursue. I'm still undecided, but the opportunities are endless."
Torres and Moreno are among 32 New Jersey teens from all over the state who were selected for this program.
Identifying hostile plants
Jose Moreno of West New York worked alongside Mohammed Misbah of Bayonne High School to study environmental issues affecting Liberty State Park, under the direction of Frank Gallagher of Liberty State Park and Dr. Clause Holzapfel of the Department of Biological Sciences at Rutgers University.
"Most of the internship was helping in the lab, but there is a lot of field work we have to do," said Moreno.
Moreno and Misbah worked in a part of the park that is closed to the public. They tried to find the harmful species that inhibit growth and use of that area, which was once part of a railroad station.
"We're trying to find the most powerful species, so in the future we can eradicate these species and restore the area to its natural state," said Moreno.
Moreno did help identify one of the most harmful plants, which apparently is spreading all over the park and could inhibit growth of other plants.
The project will continue for another two years, and Moreno is also hoping to continue with it.
"This is a long-term project and I would like to see how it ends," said Moreno.
Maria Torres spent the eight-week summer program working with fellow Hiller Amed Logrono under the direction of Dr. Jim Simon of the Department of Plant Biology at Rutgers University. They studied new scientific and medical uses for blueberries as part of the university's SEED Research Program.
"It was my first time working hands on inside a lab," said Torres. "The environment was very sophisticated and welcoming, and there were many college students as well as professors working in their own research. There were so many chemical substances that I had learned about in my chemistry class that I was able to identify."
The Partners in Science program is now in its 20th year at the Liberty Science Center.
"The program actually began in 1986 before the center even opened to the public," said Ruben Rosario, developer of Educational Resources. "The purpose of the program is to have students get a real life experiences with real scientists and in real labs."
In order to participate, students must be nominated by their high school, after completion of their sophomore or junior year, and submit their application for an eight-week placement on research projects, which range from behavioral or computer sciences to genetics.
Afterwards, mentors are matched with nominated students for an interview, and give their final approval. "This year we selected 32 students, and it generally ranges from 25 to 36 students," said Rosario.
"Partners in Science takes students beyond textbooks and school-based labs by immersing them in authentic scientific endeavors carried out by professional scientists," said Jeff Osowski, PhD., vice president of Learning and Teaching at Liberty Science Center.
During their research period, students also attend workshops that focus on technical writing, effective oral presentations, and developing research skills. Students also work on their resumes and receive a $750 stipend from the Center to offset travel expenses and other out-of-pocket costs.
"At the end of the program, which was this Wednesday, August 30, all students come to the center and give a four to five minute PowerPoint presentation about their project, and [submit] a scientific paper in regards to the project, which the mentors help them write," said Rosario.
Other students from Hudson County studied topics including treatments of heart attack patients, testing alternate fuel sources, and even the concept of a "space elevator," which would safeguard structures in space from micrometeorites.
Other Hudson County students who participated were Eric Delgado of Bayonne High School; Poojan Khatri and Rawan Mustafa of Dickinson High School; and Kent Maghacut and Dhaval Amin of McNair Academic High School.
To date, more than 500 students have participated in the Partners in Science program, and many have gone on to successful careers in different areas of science.
For more information about the program call (201) 200-1000 or visit www.lsc.org.