High school students and undergraduates gathered at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History on Saturday to present projects ranging from an interactive computer game designed to teach 12- to 14-year-olds about HIV prevention to an analysis of the circadian rhythms of plants.
The 25 students, interns at Yale science labs over the summer, presented research projects as part of EVOLUTIONS, or “EVOking Learning & Understanding Through Investigations Of the Natural Sciences,” a highly selective after-school program sponsored by the Peabody, focusing on science research and college prep. The program recruits students from West Haven and New Haven high schools and colleges, providing them with the opportunity to attend weekly science workshops. A select group of EVOLUTIONS students are offered paid summer internships in Yale science laboratories, where they work alongside with Yale faculty and graduate students in both field and lab work.
“We really are trying to find ways to keep them engaged through all four years of high school,” said program director Andrea Motto. “We want to make sure that those kids who are interested in going into science have more of an understanding what an authentic scientific environment is like.”
The interns’ projects tackled diverse subjects in fields ranging from sociology to biochemistry to anthropology.
Junior Julio Badillo of Southern Connecticut State University and senior Cora Walker of Career High School worked alongside the non-profit organization Cityseed, which hosts most of New Haven’s farmers’ markets. They ran a demographic study aimed at determining why people of color tend to visit farmers’ markets less than Caucasians. Their research found that factors such as operating hours and location, but not price, contribute to the discrepancy in visits.
Meanwhile, high school student Daniel Wivegg studied ferroelectric transistors, which are more energy efficient than traditional transistors.
“I’ve never worked on the nano scale until now, and it’s really opened up a literal world of possibilities for future studies,” he said.
At the symposium, attendees circulated the room to look at the interns’ posters and hear firsthand about their work.
For her project, senior at Engineering and Science University Magnet School Vanessa Hansen-Quartey aided associate professor of medicine Lynn Fiellin test an interactive computer game designed to inform 12- to 14-year-olds about HIV and its prevention.
The application process for EVOLUTIONS is rigorous, with over 200 students applying for 50 spots. The program also offers participants paid work as tour guides at the Peabody and the opportunity to attend an annual three-day college visit. Some students receive school credit for their participation.
The program has recently begun to branch out to other organizations, including non-profits such as Cityseed. However, Yale remains its primary partner. Of 10 high school interns interviewed, eight stated that they plan to apply to Yale College.
The program also makes a point of maintaining contact with past alumni. SCSU senior Matt Ormrod, for instance, serves as the program’s internship coordinator and is one of its former members.
“When I was here, I had a great time and made some really nice connections,” he said. “I felt like I had to come back, so I did.”
EVOLUTIONS was founded in 2006.