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Farragut High School Seniors Conduct Research with ORNL Scientists

Dec. 13, 2007

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – Some Farragut High School seniors moved to the head of the class this fall gaining unique real-world experience by conducting research projects at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Four soon-to-be graduates of the Knoxville school completed four-month internships at the lab through the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) Higher Education Research Experiences (HERE) program. HERE is designed to connect students with valuable research opportunities upon which they can build as they continue their education.

Timm Moon discusses his research with Farragut High School advisor Kristin Baksa

Timm Moon, a senior at Farragut High School, shares the results of his research project with FHS advisor Kristin Baksa. Moon recently completed a four-month internship at ORNL through the ORISE Higher Education Research Experiences (HERE) program. His studies at the lab, which have been extended through next semester, focus on the physical properties of biodiesel in automobile engines. High-resolution version of photo

The students were recruited by FHS advisor Kristin Baksa based on their good academic standing, advanced placement enrollment and interest in science. Upon arriving at ORNL, students were assigned mentors based on their specific area of interest. Mentors assisted and guided students through their projects, which ranged in topic from biosciences to nuclear science.

“I wanted to see what engineers did all day,” said Seth Hawkins, who hopes to study chemical engineering or material sciences in college. Hawkins’ research project focused on using X-ray and electronic diffraction in solids to learn how to investigate the crystal structure and orientation of materials. “I got to analyze tungsten and hopefully get it ready for further study. It was really interesting to be a part of the process and to figure out the things I am interested in studying.”

Students Timm Moon, Justin Menestrina and Aidan Boone also participated in the program. Moon studied the physical properties of biodiesel fuel in automobile engines in ORNL’s Nuclear Sciences and Technology Division, while Menestrina and Boone worked together in the Biosciences Division to research methods of whole genome association studies.

“HERE reinforced my interest in studying the biomedical field in college,” said Boone, whose research, along with Moon’s, has been extended to last through the spring semester. They will be joined by four to six students who will be new to the program.

“HERE gives students a real leg up upon entering college,” says Baksa. “They’ll enter their college campuses with real laboratory experience, and they’ll feel prepared for anything that may come their way. Some may even return to the lab for further study while earning their degrees.”

HERE was piloted by another group of FHS seniors in the spring of 2007 and was successful enough that students continued to apply. Students participating in HERE spend between two and eight hours of class time each week at the lab researching in their designated field while earning school credit.

The students presented the results from their research projects at a poster session held at ORNL on December 5.

ORISE is a U.S. Department of Energy institute focusing on scientific initiatives to research health risks from occupational hazards, assess environmental cleanup, respond to radiation medical emergencies, support national security and emergency preparedness and educate the next generation of scientists. ORISE is managed by Oak Ridge Associated Universities.

ORAU provides innovative scientific and technical solutions to advance national priorities in science, education, security and health. Through specialized teams of experts, unique laboratory capabilities and access to a consortium of more than 100 major Ph.D.-granting institutions, ORAU works with federal, state, local and commercial customers to advance national priorities and serve the public interest. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and federal contractor, ORAU manages the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

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