Project SEED Aims To Grow New Scientists
- By Dian Schaffhauser
Student participants in the American Chemical Society Project SEED program are currently wrapping up
their final reports. This eight- to 10-week, paid internship pairs economically disadvantaged juniors and seniors with faculty at local
universities, colleges or industry partners to help them experience what it's like to be a chemist.
Among the institutional supporters of the initiative is New York's Rochester Institute of
Technology, where five faculty members participate.
Associate professors Callie Babbitt in the Institute for Sustainability and Christy
Tyler in the School of Life Sciences mentored Shally Lin, a senior at
Pittsford-Mendon High School. The team worked on developing methods for
extracting and analyzing carbon nanomaterials from freshwater sediments as part of a National
Science Foundation grant aimed at understanding environmental impacts of nanotechnology.
"I originally got involved with the SEED program in an effort to make our research more relevant to the community and attract and recruit
students to STEM education and careers," said Babbitt, a first-time SEED mentor, in an article on the institution's Web site. "But by the end of the summer I realized how much the experience also benefited our
research efforts. Shally made significant contributions to our experimental work and provided a fresh perspective on how to communicate the
findings to a broader audience."
The one-on-one attention students receive can "encourage" them to pursue higher education, noted Professor Lea Vacca Michel, the Project
SEED coordinator at RIT. "We have many students in Rochester who don't have the opportunity to learn about what being a scientist is really
like... This opportunity allows them to gain firsthand experience in a lab and to learn about cutting-edge science."
Project SEED has been operating for 44 years. Those accepted to attend must have already taken high school science classes and be
recommended by a teacher. As a last act for their participation, the high schoolers are expected to write a report about their experiences.
Besides exposure to the inner workings of scientists in a university setting, they earn a $2,500 stipend.
Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @schaffhauser.