Valley interns participate in YSU's College in High School program

By Denise Dick


New high school graduates Stephanie Tieu, Jenna Wise and Samuel Dickson are spending their summer in the lab.

Tieu, a Boardman High School graduate, and Wise and Dickson, both Hubbard High School graduates, are students in the pilot College in High School summer research internship program at Youngstown State University.

Tieu is working in the engineering lab, supervised by Pedro Cortes, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering. Wise is working on a project about the size and shape of materials used in catalytic converters, supervised by Ruigang Wang, assistant professor of materials chemistry. Dickson is working with Allen Hunter, chemistry professor, and Matthias Zeller, research staff scientist in YSU’s College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Tieu plans to study chemical engineering this fall at Ohio University.

Wise will study mathematics at YSU next year, and Dickson plans to study forensic science and criminal justice with a chemistry minor at YSU.

“I was so excited when I made cobalt oxide,” Wise said.

Even though Wang and others in the lab already are familiar with the experiments and how they work, they’re excited when she’s excited, she said,

“It’s so nice to come to a place where people are happy with their jobs,” Wise said.

Dickson said what he’s learning this summer beats what he learned in high school chemistry where the outcome of experiments was predetermined.

“That’s not a true experiment,” Hunter added.

If you know what the outcome is supposed to be, you “miss the real learning and miss the fun,” he said.

At the lab, Dickson has to try to figure how to achieve a result. He’s given basic information but not told the order in which to follow steps or the specific amount of a particular material to use.

“It’s trial and error,” he said.

He’s trying to determine the precise elements used to create colorful nano-flowers in a beaker using carbon dioxide in a barium chloride and sodium metasilicate solution. The flowers are visible only through a microscope.

Hunter said the work closely correlates to what’s in the new national science standards. It’s not about memorizing the periodic table of elements anymore, he said.

Tieu works from about 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, testing the conductivity of different proteins applied to cotton thread.

She’s testing apple and orange juice, water, coffee, saliva, urine and blood.

Cortes said the work was used to develop a fabric for the U.S. Navy Seals that would notify the command center if a service member is injured.

“I want to be a chemical engineer, but I don’t really know what all is involved,” Tieu said.

Being a summer research intern helped her learn more.

Each intern receives a $1,400 stipend for the six-week program.

Wise said she always liked chemistry in high school and wanted to see if she wanted to pursue it further.

“I’m learning more about the research,” she said.

Wise said working in a lab helps her understand the practical applications of the concepts learned in chemistry.

“There are little things you have to figure out — and it’s fun,” she said.

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