Dobbs Ferry Science Research Program
The Dobbs Ferry Science Research Program is a rigorous 3-year sequence that exposes students to 21st century information literacy skills and authentic lab-based experiences. It begins with a 10th grade course that teaches students how to conduct peer reviewed literature searches on a college level. It includes an emphasis on journal article dissection and research paper writing. The second year of the course focuses on developing and implementing research plans with the assistance of a cooperating mentor. By the final year of the program, students analyze collected data and learn how to present their findings for review and critique.
In just 6 years, the research program has received national recognition as a “program of merit” by The Intel Science Talent Search on 3 occasions. In 2013, the program had its first International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) participant. Mentored by a researcher at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, the student was able to travel to Phoenix, Arizona to present work on embryonic stem cell differentiation in mice. A second student, mentored by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, was a National Intel Science Talent Search (Intel STS) semi-finalist for her work on hydrogen permeation and metal membranes. Two other students were recognized at the regional science fair, WESEF, for work on food preservation techniques (conducted at BASF) and Noonan Syndrome genetics (conducted at Mt. Sinai Medical Center).
How Can You Help?
A number of our top students have completed their first year of science research and are seeking out mentors in fields of research they have focused on. These students are independent thinkers and hard workers. We truly believe that, with your help, they are the future of research in our country. With appropriate guidance, they can expand their understanding of the scientific world beyond the walls of a classroom and get a more practical and pragmatic view of what it means to be a problem solver in action.
What is Expected of the Mentor?
Our program works around you and what you are able to offer. Many of our students are looking for someone to help them design their own project or may just be willing to take part in an existing project you may be a part of. The pathway that is chosen is entirely up to you. We are grateful that you are willing to donate your time, and our students would work whenever you are available. Students have, in the past, worked a number of different schedules that are dependent on the mentor’s availability (summers, weekdays after school, or even weekends). When a mentor meets with a student, they often discuss the schedule that works best for both parties. The science research coordinator, Erica Curran (firstname.lastname@example.org), would also be happy to answer any additional questions you may have about volunteering as a mentor.
Designing A Project
Over the last few years, “projects” have taken on many different forms. Its tough to isolate a “standard project” and say that “this is the way it should be done.” Each partner has had their own way of contributing to their mentored student. For example, at BASF, one student designed her own chemical coating to help preserve food products. The project was a result of an idea the student developed after working alongside her mentor for several weeks. At Regeneron, one student was given a biochemical pathway to explore and collected data about the effects of inhibitors on that pathway. Our student at Mt. Sinai was asked to cross her own set of flies to explore the role of a regulator in Noonan Syndrome. Each one of these projects evolved differently. Some were tasks given to the students by their mentor, while other projects were developed by the student with input from their mThe direction the student will take is developed entirely by you and the student you are working with.
A Possible Sequence for the Student After Mentor Placement*:
- Learn the safety protocols that the institution, the lab, and the mentor have in place.
- Become knowledgeable of the equipment that is used to conduct the tasks performed in the lab
- Read required literature to have an appropriate background with regard to the work being conducted and similar work elsewhere
- Shadow the mentor to gain exposure to “the life of a researcher”
- Assist the mentor with increasingly more substantive tasks as the mentorship experience evolves
- Develop a task or identify a problem that the mentored student is able to address through the design and/or implementation of a research plan
- Gather and process data to draw appropriate conclusions and evaluate or re-evaluate the identified problem or “gap”
- Prepare a report on the research collected and develop a presentation that summarizes the process and relevant findings
*Like research environments themselves, all experiences are unique and may deviate from this particular sequence. This is only a “guide” that helps a potential mentor understand what the process may look like.
The “Bigger Picture”:
We are very selective about the students we send to volunteer mentors. These individuals are aspiring scientists, with the grades and the passion to justify placement in a lab setting. You become a real role model to them, and most go on to very prestigious colleges to conduct research and “follow in their mentors’ footsteps”. The value of this experience cannot be understated. In fact, in the last year alone, most of our mentored students have been asked back to their labs by their cooperating scientists to continue work or to start new projects. We also have students studying in college labs at Princeton, Yale, Cornell, and Columbia after having graduated from our research program. Our partnership with companies like yours was an integral part of securing these students’ futures. We hope that researchers at your institution would be willing to contribute in a similar way to the hopes and dreams of these extraordinarily bright and motivated young people. Your service to our students, and to the community, will serve as the inspiration these young people need to help them realize their potential.