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Beyond the Classroom: Science Research at Breck

Thursday, Jul 27, 2017

STEM, Science, Curriculum, Education, Research, Advanced Science Research

Imagine being able to do graduate-level research as a high school student.

In Breck’s Advanced Science Research Program, that’s exactly what 30 Breck juniors and seniors are spending their summers doing. They’re based at research facilities around the Twin Cities, including at the University of St. Thomas and the University of Minnesota. We’ve highlighted some of the projects from this upcoming school year’s cohort:

ChristianaWilkeResearch.jpgDavid Ahrens, Christiana Wilke, and Cass Roland are working at the University of St. Thomas examining ways to keep phosphorus in the soil. Citing harmful runoff from overuse of phosphorus-based fertilizers on farms, this group of three (a first for Science Research) hopes to use calcium chloride to soak up the phosphorus and keep the areas surrounding farms healthy. They constructed their own test plot with 40 PVC pipes. Working with their mentor, Dr. Small, they measure the plant height to see what’s working.  Eventually, they said they'd like to partner with farms around the region to not only keep their crops healthy, but also reduce the harmful run-off from chemical pesticides. 

At the University of Minnesota, Tommy Peterson and Kylie Spangler are testing a version of a drug that could be used as an alternative to chemotherapy for patients with leukemia. With the help and prior research of their mentor, they’ve been spending their first few months in Advanced Science Research getting acquainted with the lab and refining their research questions.

Also conducting research in the medical field are Mary O’Grady and Ava Raffel. They’re working in the Cancer and Cardiovascular Research Building at the University of Minnesota. Where most students have one specialized project, Mary and Ava are pursuing three distinct research questions, verifying if a specific vector can help mitigate the effects of a type of muscular dystrophy. Their project is in the field of gene editing, a relatively new field studying whether it is possible to edit out destructive mutations on a person’s genes. They say they’re having lots of fun and they love the science they’re learning. Their only complaint? All the forms.

Addie Gleekel and Melinda Samaratunga are working with Dr. Jayna Ditty at the University of St. Thomas studying the possibilities of engineering bacteria to be attracted to harmful substances. Their research, if successful, could be deployed during future environmental disasters, like oil spills. In the course of their research, Addie and Melinda created a tray for culturing the bacteria.

ColeMaxwellResearch.jpgCole Maxwell is one of the program’s only third year students, having been in Advanced Science Research since his sophomore year. At a University of Minnesota lab, he is working with bartonella, a bacteria that lives inside of blood vessels. His research focuses on how bartonella interacts with melanoma. He has been creating gels that serve as a medium to examine how bartonella affects the cancer’s growth. He says that this time in Advanced Science Research has been “challenging but rewarding.” In his second year under his mentor, he says he’s “been able to take ownership over his own work,” and he’s looking forward to expanding his research during the upcoming school year.

 

For more information about the Advanced Science Research program and student research at Breck, visit the Advanced Science Research website here.

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