Publishing papers, winning awards and helping to advance knowledge in their fields, student researchers at FAU High School are proving that youth is no barrier to high achievement.
A dual-enrollment school on the Boca Raton campus, FAU High School prepares students for college studies. Students typically graduate with three years’ worth of college credits by the end of high school, and sometimes even graduate with a bachelor’s degree from FAU prior to receiving their high school diploma.
Three years ago, the high school launched a program to encourage its students to pursue undergraduate research. Now, more students are taking up the challenge, with 163 of the high school’s 535 students doing research at the college level, says Tricia Meredith, Ph.D., director of the research program and assistant professor in the College of Education.
These scholars aren’t just holding their own among older peers: they’re excelling.
Sixteen of them have co-authored articles published in peer-reviewed journals since the program was launched. Thirty-six have won research grants from FAU or discipline-specific societies and conferences. More than 100 have given presentations at FAU or national meetings. Four of them were recently chosen as FAU Undergraduate Researchers of the Year.
One of the young researchers making a mark is Sydney Yu, a high school senior and college junior who is double majoring in computer engineering and biochemistry. Yu works with Waseem Asghar, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and the Department of Biological Sciences.
Yu’s first project in Asghar’s lab was to review information on home-based sperm analysis devices, used to determine male fertility. “Our main conclusion was that while home-based devices are more convenient and cheaper than traditional lab analysis, they don’t offer the whole picture,” Yu said. “Men who use them often require follow-up tests.”
She is now working with Asghar on a new process that could make it easier to detect the Zika virus in patients.
Yu is first author on an article accepted for publication in the Journal of Andrology. Sarah Geevarughese, also an FAU High School researcher, is another co-author of the study.
Another research talent is Alec Simonson, an FAU High School senior who expects to earn his B.S. in Biology in 2019. He spent last summer as an intern in the lab of Matthew Disney, Ph.D., professor of chemistry at Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Fla. There, Simonson tested a method for bonding various compounds to a cellular structure called a ribosome to determine which molecules show promise for killing antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
He gave a presentation on his work at Scripps, and Disney invited him to continue his work in the fall as a college intern.
“Simonson’s work with bacteria has significant implications,” Disney said. “In very short order, he’s been able to show our approach has potential.”
The students’ efforts are having far-reaching consequences.
“FAU High School’s student researchers are making a profound impact on the lives of people around the world,” said Sherry Bees, principal of A.D. Henderson University School and FAU High School. “Their diligence, dedication and sensitivity to real-world problems have led students such as Sydney and Alec to use their knowledge to benefit the greater field of science.”
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