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Planting seeds of future science discoveries

Summer Academy high school students and researcher in laboratory


In June, UNT’s Science Summer Academy, a collaboration between the BioDiscovery Institute, the College of Engineering and the College of Education, gave middle school and high school English language learners the opportunity to learn about plant science from senior scientists in the field. The program engaged students in hands-on experience in research labs on campus with a goal of inspiring and motivating them to pursue careers in science. Over the last three summers, the students' teachers have spent several weeks learning from UNT research scientists.

“UNT scientists are paired up with the teachers to help expand the knowledge of the science teaching community,” says Rosanna Boyd, principal lecturer in UNT’s Department of Teacher Education and Administration.

The teachers attended classes with research scientists, conducted experiments, developed instructional objectives and created lesson plans in both English and Spanish to help pass on their new knowledge to English language learners. This summer they were invited to spend a week on campus, June 11-14, with some of their students.

“Students gain exposure to university life and at the same time get a chance to see themselves as future scientists,” Boyd says.The program is part of the educational outreach of the interdisciplinary project “Biosynthesis, Regulation and Engineering of C-Lignin.” Boyd handles the education component of the academy, and Richard Dixon, Distinguished Research Professor in UNT’s Department of Biological Sciences and associate director of the BioDiscovery Institute, is the project’s principal investigator. 

One of the goals of the outreach is to engage Hispanic students who are underrepresented in the field of science in the United States, and spark their interest in science.

“Once we started talking about the ways you can apply this science and how you can engineer plants to make different types of bioproducts, the students got more excited than when they were hearing the information that was more like their normal lessons,” explains Dixon.