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High School Students Get Hands-On Experience in Lab Research Class

Students in science lab

The six high school students in Introduction to Laboratory Research could have spent their summer at the pool.

Instead, armed with dreams of becoming doctors, scientists, researchers and laboratory workers, they decided to spend two weeks of their summer at Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County Campus. They took a college-level course to sharpen their skills and be exposed to equipment used in real laboratories.

“This summer is about lab research for me,” said Nnameka Ifeajekwu, 17, a rising senior at Washington Christian Academy. “I wanted to take this summer and put it to good use.”

Ifeajekwu, who is interested in medical lab work, also will be interning this summer in a lab at a local hospital.

“This is a whole three hours dedicated to lab research,” he said of the JHU course, which met for three hours a day. In high school, “you don’t get to get into the nitty gritty.”

The course was taught by Josh Olszewicz, the lab manager and a recent master’s degree graduate of the Hopkins biotechnology program. Students in the lab research class – which was open to high school students and college undergraduates – were able to earn college credit. This was the third summer the course was offered at the JHU Montgomery County Campus.

Lecture topics focused on the principles of molecular biology, restriction enzyme analysis, an overview of DNA, electrophoresis, computer biology and other topics. Students also learned about DNA purification and manipulation and polymerase chain reaction. The goal of the class was to highlight the laboratory research behind medicine, agriculture, the environment and biotechnology. Students learned how to use a variety of equipment, such as a centrifuge and micropipette, and were introduced to applications of bioinformatics software in a lab setting as well as gel electrophoresis.

Fisola Famuyiwa, 16, a rising senior at Our Lady of Good Counsel, said she appreciated the hands-on aspects of the course.

“It’s not just theory. It’s easier said than done,” she said of using the equipment. “You need to think about the next step before you even do your first one.”

Zoe Joy, 15, a rising sophomore at Churchill High School, has her heart set on a career in biotechnology and saw the course as the perfect introduction. She said she is interested in making medicine and curing diseases. The class, she said, “teaches you the techniques you need to know before you go to college.”

CATEGORY: Academics, K-12 Outreach