By David Cruz
It’s like a science project on steroids, and from the looks of a few of these research projects, some of these kids could be working on the effects of steroids on science projects.
“There are 34 exhibits here, some of them I can’t explain because I can’t read them,” admitted Gerry Bellotti, the Vice President of the Independent College Fund of NJ. “They’re scary smart the students at 19, 18 years old, that they can do these kinds of things.”
The kids here are from New Jersey’s 14 private colleges and universities, representing a diversity of backgrounds, though all tied together by one common trait – Very. Big. Brains.
“What we’re working on is the ability to control cancer cells from dividing by stabilizing one of the conformers of DNA,” said Monmouth University Senior Sammy Saka.
“We started the summer with the goal of building a confocal microscope, and the benefits to a confocal microscope is that there’s a pinhole in front of the detector which allow us to eliminate excess light coming into the system,” explained Alexa Daly, a senior at Drew University.
Which anyone knows means you can optically section a cell specimen, which decreases the need for biopsies. The kids here are part of the Independent College Fund’s initiative to attract and retain students in science, technology, engineering and math. Judges from a number of science, environment and tech companies scored individual projects.
The Marist High School Freshman Baseball Team seemed to be a captive audience.
“I mean we went to the first project over there”, said Daniel Lambkin, a Freshman at Marist High School. When asked if he was learning anything he quickly responded, “yes.”
Josh Roberts, another Freshman at Marist High School, learned that it’s important for baseball players to get along with scientists. “It helps you in life,” he said.
This is the second annual Undergraduate Research Symposium. It’s for college students already on track for careers in science, technology, engineering and math. These are the students for whom motivation is not an issue.
“When I was growing up I always loved research and I was always curious about how this works,” said Ashraf Amadou, a senior at Bloomfield College. “I love biology and chemistry is amazing because that tells you how your body works.”
You can make all the Revenge of the Nerds jokes you want but when a scientist and a second baseman can find common ground, maybe there’s hope for the rest of us.