Junior Academy Award Winners

Read letters here about the great experiences that Montana Junior Academy award winners and their teacher chaperones have had on their trips to the annual meeting of the American Association of the Advancement of Science.

Dear Montana Academy of Sciences,

I had never walked along the Charles River Basin, ridden on ‘The T’ subway system, or meandered the quiet paths of Harvard on a Saturday morning until I had the honor to attend the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual conference in Boston, Mass. Hundreds of scientists from around the globe had gathered to talk about their research and swap ideas with others of all disciplines. Alongside fellow student scientists from across the nation, I had the privilege to tour MIT, Harvard, and Northeastern University. Over meals with other scientists and educators, I got to know my fellow delegates very well. By the end of the conference, I was saddened to leave AAAS and the beautiful Boston area.

On the first night in Boston, one of the lecturers was Dr. Stephen Wolfram. Creator of such technologies as the Wolfram Alpha answer engine and Wolfram Mathematica software, it was one of the highlights of the trip to meet such an esteemed mathematician. Throughout the trip, delegates had the pleasure of sitting down to eat with Dr. Wolfram and other scientists to talk about their lives and how they became interested in the fields they studied. During one meal, I was able to sit with a researcher from California who had an interest in discovering drugs from natural sources, which is the field I have worked in over the past few years. She was very intrigued by my work, and pleasantly shared her own knowledge to further teach me in the subject.

Another great opportunity was a morning where delegates were encouraged to have a roundtable discussion about their research and to teach eachother their thought process when tackling the project. This was one of the most beneficial times for me, since it was not a competition; in other science fairs, students can become very competitive when sharing their data or describing their methods. However, in an environment where the only goal was to learn from eachother, this fierceness was reserved. To explore one another’s topics, ask questions, and learn from eachother’s methods is one of the best ways to learn the scientific method. I wish I had the opportunity to talk to more students and hear their stories.

Boston was one of the highlights of my year. Besides meeting fantastic scientists of all ages, I was able to learn immensely about the scientific community and how it works. I still endeavor to become a scientific researcher after I get my degree. With luck, I’ll return to the conference in future years and share my experiences with the new generation of scientists.

Thank you for giving me such a great experience.

Michelle Nemetchek

Dear Montana Academy of Sciences,

Thank you very much for providing me with the opportunity to travel to Boston, Massachusetts to attend the 2013 American Junior Academy of Science. I am extremely grateful to have been able to attend AJAS for a second year, having also attended the symposium in Vancouver, BC, Canada in 2012. AJAS is a wonderful program which I find to be enjoyable for many different reasons. I particularly enjoy the fact AJAS is not a competitive symposium, but rather provides junior scientists with a chance to communicate their interests and projects in a low pressure environment without feeling the usual anxiety of competitive meetings. I made several connections with other junior scientists from around the United States. Friendships such as these are unique and valuable tools for high school and undergraduate students who are pursuing research opportunities.

Boston, Massachusetts was a wonderful location for AJAS to be held. I was thrilled to tour the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus and to interact with several MIT faculty members and students. One of my favorite events was listening to MIT Professor Mriganka Sur present his research concerning brain plasticity. Professor Sur spoke wonderfully in his presentation to all of the AJAS participants, and I found his research both intriguing and exciting. After the talk the participants enjoyed tours of several MIT labs and interactive activities. I had a wonderful time touring a lab which was concerned with the investigation of epigenetics, a topic which I have recently become increasingly interested in. After touring the lab, I participated in an interactive lesson where I was able to dissect a preserved cow eyeball and learn more about the how exactly the eye functions. I never before thought I would have the opportunity to explore some of the prestigious research being conducted at MIT on such an intimate level.

During the oral and poster presentations at AJAS this year I was exposed to many diverse and exceptional student research presentations. In my oral presentation session the projects ranged from a study of health risks associated with mothers who are carrying multiple fetuses, to determining at what temperatures cooked beef reaches safe levels of bacteria growth for consumption, to my own project concerning relationships within fungal endophyte communities of an invasive plant called cheatgrass. It is always enjoyable to see the level of diversity in student research projects which have originated in different regions across the United States.

Thank you once again for allowing me to participate in such a wonderful event. I look forward to seeing some of the local research projects conducted by students from across Montana at the 2013 Montana Academy of Sciences symposium.

Stacia Hill

Dear Montana Academy of Sciences Board of Directors,

I am writing to sincerely thank you for the opportunity to travel to Boston, MA in February, with Stacia Hill and Michele Nemetcheck to attend the National Academy of Science’s annual meeting. We all had an amazing experience which was not isolated to the meeting itself but included some highlights such as a campus tour of MIT, a visit to the natural history museum at Harvard, and a great dinner at Maggiano’s Italian restaurant. We interacted with other teachers and students learning a lot about different scientific fields, how things work in different schools, as well as a bit about what it means to live in a big city. The trip was a complete success. I was honored to be able to participate as a chaperone.

This year was unique for me because I found it more difficult to be involved in independent research at Big Sky due to other professional commitments. I really missed working with the students in our Advanced Problems in Science (APS) class. I was so happy to be asked to chaperone Stacia and Michele, finally I could interact with students in APS and learn a bit more about what other students are researching. In the past I have found APS to be a stimulating and challenging class to teach. The students never cease to amaze me. This trip to Boston confirmed and reinforced my feelings that there is a lot of hope for the future of science because these students will be the ones running the labs that make the next set of breakthroughs.

Thank you for being a society that supports high school independent research. Every year your symposium and subsequent trip to the National Academy meeting for a high school student is a highlight of our APS course. I know these experiences change student’s lives. Without your support our local program would not be as professional. At Big Sky there is a big emphasis put on the papers submitted to the Montana Academy of Sciences. We at Big Sky highly value all you do. Thank you for your generosity. Thank you for being great role models. Thank you for your support.

Kate Lindner
Big Sky Science Teacher

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