NDSU offers a six-week summer program for Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo students interested in science, technology, engineering and math to participate in high-level, on-campus research projects led by faculty mentors.
North Dakota State University (NDSU) is helping local high school students get excited about STEM research.
NDSU offers a six-week summer program for Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo students interested in science, technology, engineering and math to participate in high-level, on-campus research projects led by faculty mentors. The program, called PICNICS, stands for parents’ involvement with children nurturing intellectual curiosity in science. This year’s projects are in the areas of pharmaceutical sciences, mechanical engineering, chemistry and biochemistry and coatings and polymeric materials. The 2023 program is organized by Profs. Zhongyu Yang and Mukund Sibi, from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.
“The quality of high school students who participate in this program is phenomenal, “said Mukund Sibi, NDSU distinguished professor in chemistry. “Typically, the students involved are high achievers. But our goal is to encourage STEM interest from any student and to show them the research experience at NDSU.”
Students work in labs on research projects with current NDSU undergraduate and graduate students under the supervision of a faculty mentor. The experience culminates in a poster presentation in August, which is open to the public.
“This program is great for high schoolers because what they get to work on is typically not something they would be allowed to do prior to their final year of college and they’re doing it as high schoolers,” said Wyatt Wilcox, NDSU Ph.D. student and mentor. “Students walk away from this with confidence in their lab skills.”
This year, NDSU received a National Science Foundation grant to actively involve students from military families. One participant this year is from a military family. Looking ahead, Sibi hopes to include more and extend the program’s reach to involve students from diverse backgrounds, such as Veterans and new Americans.
Students benefit from this training experience by learning what it’s like to be a research student in college, and also by including it in their application materials for colleges and scholarships. Past participants of the program have achieved remarkable success, earning prestigious national presidential scholarships and securing admission to renowned universities such as Harvard, MIT and Columbia.
Jackson Honeyman, a Horace High School student nominated by his science teacher to participate in the program, was looking for hands-on research. “I could do a STEM camp at my school, but this allows me to get real lab experience,” Honeyman said. “I’ve enjoyed this experience to further my learning in chemistry and STEM because it’s what I want to pursue in college.”
Sibi said the research program began about 10 years ago when an NDSU faculty member received a CAREER grant to train a few high school students. Since then, it has been expanded with the help of area high school teachers and administrators who nominate students who are interested in STEM research.
Abhijna Kavasseri, a Fargo North student, has participated in the program for the past three years. “The PICNICS program has been a great opportunity. I’ve had the best mentors and now I have an interest in the chemical engineering field from the lab experience and my interest in math.”
“Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo teachers deserve credit for this program’s success,” said Sibi. “They are teaching students in the classroom and fostering student interest in STEM. The NDSU PICNIC program is making a difference in the community by preparing students for their futures.”
The PICNICS program will take place again in 2024. Prospective students can learn more at ndsu.edu/chemistry.
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