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High School Students Find Special ‘Chemistry’ with Duquesne

While their friends are cutting lawns or taking fast food orders, some area high school students have landed a summer job conducting research in laboratories at Duquesne University.

For the fifth year, outstanding high schoolers who are economically disadvantaged have been selected to take part in Project SEED, a program supported by the American Chemical Society, Duquesne and local businesses.

Through Project SEED, these students are exposed to research and encouraged to consider careers in science, said Dr. Jennifer Aitken, project coordinator and assistant professor of chemistry.

Students, who receive stipends for their work, also compete for $5,000 college scholarships; students from the Duquesne program repeatedly have succeeded in attaining these scholarships.

The eight-week Project SEED program, which operates through Aug. 8, places students in the lab or in the field Monday through Friday, eight hours a day.

Each of the four students has a mentor and specialized project, such as using microwaves to synthesize compounds, creating biomolecular compounds with computer programs, and studying alloy formations and atomic transfers.

“These are not situations where students only observe others working in the lab,” Aitken said. “In Project SEED, students use sophisticated equipment to conduct hands-on, in-depth research. In the lab and beyond, students have the chance to network and to receive support from others in the field.”

One networking experience will come in August, at the national American Chemical Society meeting in Philadelphia. Because this marks the 40th anniversary of Project SEED nationwide, all four students in the Duquesne program will attend and present their work.

“This special, 40th anniversary meeting will be the first time all of our students are able to participate in this national conference,” said Aitken, who has been invited to address a technical session on the cutting-edge research that Project SEED students have accomplished. “This is a special milestone, both for the chemical society and our students. Students have the chance to be exposed to work at the national level as well as the chance to have their work highlighted, an opportunity that’s certainly beyond the typical high school experience. As science professionals and educators, we’re enthusiastic about the opportunity to encourage this level of learning in a generation of future scientists.”

At the meeting, Aitken will discuss work completed by Project SEED participants at Duquesne in 2006 through the current year, including a student research project has produced a more energy-efficient way to prepare inter-metallic compounds in a microwave. These compounds are important because they can be utilized in solders and as superconductors.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.