Rowan SEED for high school students' dreams

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Bridgeton residents Eduardo Beltran and Fred Perry planted the seeds for their education and careers this summer thanks to a program sponsored by the American Chemical Society (ACS) that landed them internships in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department at Rowan University.

Bridgeton residents Eduardo Beltran and Fred Perry planted the seeds for their education and careers this summer thanks to a program sponsored by the American Chemical Society (ACS) that landed them internships in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department at Rowan University.

Beltran, 20, a rising senior at Bridgeton High School, and Perry, 17, a rising senior at Cumberland Regional High School, were selected to participate in the Project SEED program, which brings economically disadvantaged or potential first-generation college students to a campus to conduct research.

Beltran and Perry worked in the eight-week program under the guidance of assistant professors Drs. Timothy Vaden and Lei Yu on ionic liquids — liquid salts — which can be used to improve the performances of fuel cells and batteries, among other applications. Associate professor Dr. Gregory Caputo fostered the initiative.

“Essentially they are designer solvents that you can change the properties of to fit different applications,” Vaden said of ionic liquids.

Yu said Beltran and Perry assisted them in research to determine how to make the ionic liquids last longer and improve their safety. The two high school students, who presented their research results at an ACS national conference in August in Philadelphia, conducted hands-on and computer research during their time in Science Hall on Rowan’s Glassboro campus. The students ran experiments and handled instrumentation by themselves, among other tasks.

Noted Vaden, “They’re both very good students, and they’re both every impressive. They learned a lot in the lab. They can extract quality, publishable data. These are not just teaching lab experiments. They’re not doing high school science. They’re doing real, cutting-edge instrumentation-based research. The results are new, publishable results that will be utilized in future publications and grant proposals. We’re benefitting them, and they’re benefitting our research program.”

The ACS and the South Jersey chapter of the organization funded the students’ research with a $2,500 stipend for each of them.

Both young men are glad for the opportunity, which also is supported in part by Rowan’s College of Science & Mathematics.

“I’m (came) to see how much I really enjoy chemistry and learn more about it,” said Perry, who is thinking about pursuing a science major in college.

Beltran, who wants to major in architectural engineering in college, said he was excited to learn about something new.

Caputo said Project SEED is an important program in the push to improve STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education in the United States. “One of the easiest ways to get more kids interested in becoming science majors in college is to get them excited about science in high school,” said Caputo, who hopes to see Rowan continue involvement in the program.

Yu also hopes the relationships with high schools in the South Jersey will be long. “For the students and for Rowan, through these projects we can establish good connections with teachers and their schools,” he said. “We can connect with them and can develop more activities for more students in their schools.”

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