The Shorewood School District partnered with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) Department of Physics to create a semester-long physics research internship program for Shorewood High School students. This program, which has been running now for the last four years, provides a handful of Shorewood students each year with the opportunity to work with UWM professors and graduate students on cutting edge research in areas including physics, biophysics, molecular biology, chemistry, medical imaging, astronomy, and space.
This past school year, five students participate in the program. They were split up between two biophysics labs at UWM but each student worked on their own project alongside grad students there. The projects were all based in biophysics, but there was quite the range. One student's project was focused on unraveling individual proteins with the use of magnetic tweezers. A couple of students worked with optics to gather data about protein levels in cells and then applied that information to the function or behavior of those cells. Another student did a project with hydrogels, such as those used in diapers or in culinary arts.
At the conclusion of the semester, students shared their biophysics presentations, on what data they gathered and what they learned, with the UWM Physics Department.
“These students had the opportunity to work with technology and procedures that few do,” says internship advisor and Shorewood teacher Kelsey Burke. “I have never had the opportunity to work in such a professional lab setting. This was ‘real’ science. Throughout most science education, due to time or material constraints, students participate in labs with an expected outcome and therefore never get to experience the real experimental side of science. These students and the UWM students they worked with had no idea what results they would find and then had to interpret those results and develop next steps. Finally, they had the experience to present their scientific findings to experts. That alone is an amazing opportunity as most high schoolers at best present in front of their classmates.”
"It was great to see the student development over the semester,” adds internship advisor and Shorewood teacher Kevin Kane. “On the first day the students were fairly intimidated by the research topic and the equipment. In the end they were experts in a real world biophysics area and the techniques used to gather, analyze and present their results."