CSUN hosts symposium for future scientists

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Middle and high school students from Los Angeles County showcased the results of their findings May 14 as the culmination of a program where CSUN professors train teachers in how to teach students about scientific research and inspire them to become scientists.

The teachers involved in the program utilized CSUN science labs and learned how to conduct research projects with their students.

The results of the program were showcased during the May 14 poster symposium, during which the students shared their findings with the CSUN community in the University Student Union Grand Salon.

“National security and national health and welfare are dependent on producing creative scientists,” said Steven Oppenheimer, director of the symposium and director of CSUN’s Center for Cancer and Developmental Biology. “We are starting these kids very early in their scientific careers.”

The teaching program, primarily sponsored by “Improving Teacher Quality” and the California Post Secondary Education Commission in Sacramento, has taken place at CSUN for about 20 years.

“There are many programs like this, but this is one of the very few that evaluates the quality of the (teacher) training by displaying what the students actually produce in terms of research,” said Oppenheimer.

The results the students produce through the program are also expressed in an annual published journal, which compiles summaries of the research done by the participants.

Between 70 and 80 students from schools including Clark Magnet High School, Ernest Lawrence Middle School and Robert Fulton College Preparatory School participated in the program.

“It (was) an incredible display of student interest in science,” said CSUN President Jolene Koester. “Our hope at Cal State Northridge is that these students will continue to pursue an interest in science, and we hope they come to CSUN.”

Students conducted experiments on various topics, including how to keep vegetables fresh, the amount of dissolution in gummy bears, what type of soda is the most harmful to teeth, and how sleep patterns affect human function.

“This was a good opportunity to express what we learned and show off what we know,” said Britney Gaviria, 14, an eighth grader at Fulton College Preparatory School.

The teaching program helped Kevin Le, 13, from Ernest Lawrence Middle School, realize that “there’s always something to learn.”

“I learned things I never thought I would learn,” Le said.