Athens, Ga. – Fifteen Georgia high school seniors were recently honored as 2010 Promising Scholars during the University of Georgia undergraduate research symposium that is sponsored every spring by the Honors Program’s Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities.
The Promising Scholars were offered a window into the everyday life of undergraduates who work on multi-semester research projects guided by faculty mentors in their fields of interest.
They attended roundtable and panel discussions with UGA faculty who focused on the academic and research expectations and opportunities available in a collegiate environment.
The students also had the opportunity to interact with current freshmen and sophomores who participate in CURO’s Apprentice Program. Divided into groups, the scholars had lunch with the apprentices and were given tours of campus. The apprentices also led question-and-answer sessions about their UGA experiences.
“A few years ago, high school students had little idea about participating in undergraduate research as part of their collegiate experience,” said Pamela Kleiber, associate director of the Honors Program, who coordinates CURO programs. “Now students are much more savvy in the questions they ask and knowledgeable about the high value of participation. They come to UGA in part because they are seeking these opportunities.”
This is the sixth year that the CURO Promising Scholars Program has extended invitations to academically outstanding seniors from Georgia high schools. Begun with financial support from two National Science Foundation grants, the program is now an integral part of CURO.
Promising Scholar Garry Baker, who is from Lithonia, said one of his favorite parts of the visit was meeting the other scholars and hearing the personal stories of the CURO apprentices.
“I was happy to find out that UGA offered a program that could transform a massive school, such as UGA, into a more focused institution, which would allow me to gets hands-on experiences as early as the first year,” said Baker, a senior at Stephenson High School in Stone Mountain. “Undergraduate research affords us the opportunity to experience several potential career paths before spending years studying a particular subject just to discover that we would rather be doing something else in our junior or senior year. It gives students the cushion we need to make sound decisions.”
Similarly, CURO apprentice Michael Burel said his experience as a 2008 Promising Scholar prepared him more fully when he started his freshman year at UGA. He toured the laboratory of Steven Stice, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Reproductive Physiology, during his visit and this year gave that same tour to some of the current scholars.
“I felt as if I was passing on a torch of sorts,” said Burel, who is from Acworth and is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in cellular biology. “When I was a Promising Scholar, hearing the experiences from those who conducted research first-hand illuminated the benefits. I was even able to network as a Promising Scholar at the symposium, which was how I ended up working in Dr. Stice’s lab today.”
CURO apprentice Christine Akoh, who is from Athens and led the group with Burel, said she hopes that by sharing her experiences she can help the Promising Scholars understand how coursework and research have a mutually beneficial relationship.
“Research mentors have different expectations than college professors who teach you in class and that is something a student must learn in order to build a good relationship with their research professor and have success in CURO,” said Akoh, a 2010 Goldwater Scholar who is pursuing bachelor’s degrees in food science and interdisciplinary applied science. “I like to tell the students that research in general is not easy, but the rewards that come from conducting research make it all worthwhile.”
The poster presentation session, where more than 68 UGA undergraduates shared their project results, was an additional highlight for many Promising Scholars such as Sarah Mitchell, who is from Tucker, and Dervin Cunningham Jr., who is from Albany.
“It was nice to see how passionate the students are about what they are studying and how advanced the subject matter is despite their young age,” said Mitchell, who is a senior at St. Pius X Catholic High School in Atlanta.
“There were students trying to find medical purposes in magnetizing water droplets and other students trying to discover links to cancer,” said Cunningham, who is a senior at Westover Comprehensive High School in Albany. “This experience was invaluable and inspiring because the researchers were students just like me.”
The 2010 CURO Promising Scholars, their hometown and high school are:
Aditya Aphale / Alpharetta / Alpharetta High School
Garry Baker / Lithonia / Stephenson High School
Emily Bowen / Atlanta / Marist School
Peter Cornick / Avondale Estates / Paideia School
Dervin Cunningham Jr. / Albany / Westover Comprehensive High School
Alexis Garcia / Duluth / Wesleyan School
Diana Guyton / Atlanta / St. Pius X Catholic High School
Janie Janeczko / Marietta / Holy Spirit Preparatory School
Cinthana Kandasamy / Watkinsville / Oconee County High School
Cody Knapp / Thomasville / Thomas County Central High School
Sarah Mitchell / Tucker / St. Pius X Catholic High School
Connor Sweetnam / Suwanee / St. Pius X Catholic High School
Elliott Tanner / Peachtree City / Starr’s Mill High School
Chatela Young / Gainesville / Robert W. Johnson High School
Cameron Zahedi / Milton / Milton High School
For more information on the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities, see http://www.uga.edu/honors and click on CURO.