Scientists at Lincoln-Way East High School is busy researching how teeny gold particles transmit light with the help of scientists.
By JANICE NEUMANN
A small group of aspiring scientists at Lincoln-Way East High School is busy researching how teeny gold particles transmit light with the help of scientists at Argonne National Laboratory.
It’s an exciting experience for the six seniors and two juniors, even though communication with Argonne is by zoom, because they get to pique the brain of Xuedan Ma, an expert in the field and scientist at the Center for Nanoscale Materials. The students have already met virtually with Ma and are perusing research papers by other scientists on their topic.
Benjamin Voliva III, Chemistry and Forensic Science teacher who is volunteering to oversee the project in its fourth year at the school, said the particles of gold being studied range in size from 100 to 1,000 atoms.
“It’s fascinating, that’s definitely one of the reasons I like to do it,” said Voliva, who has been helping with the program at Lincoln-Way East for the past four years. “It’s very nerdy … the group of kids we have, we all embrace that nerdiness …”
“Even though being a part of the program can get a bit nerve-wracking due to its serious environment, I thoroughly enjoyed participating because I was able to learn so many new skills, in terms of producing samples, using lab equipment and technique,” said Jillian Ketchen a returning student to the program about her experience last year. “This year, we are entering a new territory at Argonne with the Center for Nanoscale Materials.”
“I also look forward to being mentored by a career scientist at a prestigious lab, and I am confident that under Dr. Ma, we will be able to discover innovations in nanoscience,” Ketchen said.
Voliva said students came away with experience working on equipment such as an electron cyclotron, which accelerates electrons exponentially. But they also gained other skills, including public speaking and teamwork. Once complete, they’ll present their work to both the school and scientists at Argonne.
“It’s a one-of-a kind experience in the country,” said Voliva. “It’s a unique opportunity for the kids from our area an it’s using one of the most expensive, sophisticated piece of equipment that exists.
“Plus there’s exposure and networking with people in the field.”
Voliva said he had heard from alums that their college interviewers were impressed by experience in the program.
“Our school wasn’t getting a lot of kids into high-level colleges because they didn’t have something that made them stand out,” said Voliva. “This program pretty much allows them to have something to talk about academically.”
The program is also competitive, with only six other schools nationwide being invited to participate this year. These eight high schoolers, who were chosen out of 24 at the school, needed to declare a future interest in being scientists, a recommendation from a science teacher and an interview with faculty.
Originally published at chicagotribune