University of South Carolina

Middle-school students performing DNA research in SCienceLab
Middle-school students performing DNA research in SCienceLab

SCienceLab introduces research to pre-college students

In a University of South Carolina laboratory, researchers in white lab coats carefully transfer tiny drops of liquid so they can study their own DNA. Nearby, fellow researchers study genetic disorders, polymer molecules and environmental contaminants.

Such studies are routine experiences for undergraduate and graduate students, but these experiments are being conducted by middle- and high-school students, many of whom have never been on a college campus before.

The lab experience is part of SCienceLab, an inquiry-based program designed to augment the science curriculum in middle and high schools and give students a laboratory experience similar to one they would find at college.

Created by biology professor Dr. Bert Ely, SCienceLab recently received a $536,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health. The NIH award, one of only 17 Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) projects in the United States, puts the university in the company of other prestigious universities, including Cornell, Stanford, Purdue and Tufts.

Established in 2003 with a $700,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, the two-year SEPA project has enabled Ely to continue the SCienceLab offerings for middle- and high-school students and expand the program to Furman University, which is offering two SCienceLab classes this fall.

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  • What: NIH-funded outreach program to middle and high schools that allows pre-college students to perform scientific research
  • Who: Bert Ely created and directs the program

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