Research Scholars Share Science with Local Students

February 15, 2005
Medical students from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)-National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research Scholars Program are reaching out and sharing their excitement about science with Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) students.

The HHMI-NIH Research Scholar volunteers have been taking time from their busy NIH laboratory schedules to visit three nearby MCPS schools: Ashburton Elementary School, Tilden Middle School, and Walter Johnson High School. There, they talk with high school science students about life in medical school and careers in science and medicine; help middle school students solve math and science problems; and show fifth graders the steps of the scientific method. Thirteen Scholars visited schools 20 times between late October and mid-December 2004.

The HHMI-NIH Research Scholars Program brings talented medical and dental students from across the country to work full-time in NIH research labs for up to two years. The program has been funded and administered by the HHMI Office of Grants and Special Programs in cooperation with the NIH since 1985. HHMI is a biomedical research organization and science education philanthropy headquartered in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

One Scholar, Melissa Russo from Georgetown University School of Medicine, has worked with Ashburton Elementary teacher Karen Powers to develop lesson plans for hands-on scientific method workshops for fifth graders. The first workshop showed three classes of fifth graders how to use the scientific method with everyday grocery products. Students learned to create a hypothesis to predict whether brand-name food products are truly better than generic brand products. The students then compared the differences in the products by evaluating their sights, smells, and tastes.

At the secondary level, a team of five Research Scholars tutored Tilden Middle School students in math and science. The Scholars visited the school in teams of two during science study sessions every Wednesday. By working in pairs, the Scholars are able to fill in for each other when last-minute lab commitments arise. The tutors are Benjamin Chu from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine, Nancy Edwards from Duke University School of Medicine, Kevin Martinez from Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Sciences, Rabie Shanti from Harvard School of Dental Medicine, and Stephen Waldo from University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine.

In early December, Jade Quijano from the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine delivered a presentation on diseases of the skeletal system to two anatomy and physiology classes at Walter Johnson High School. She has offered to give additional talks on other medical topics.

The medical student volunteers will continue working with the schools through the end of the academic year. Plans include matching Scholars with students at all three schools to help develop student scientific inquiry projects this spring. The Scholar volunteers will focus on helping students develop a good hypothesis, one of the most important steps in a scientific experiment.

The volunteer efforts spring from a collaboration among HHMI's Graduate Science Education Program, HHMI's Precollege Science Education Initiatives Program, and Montgomery County Public Schools. HHMI has supported MCPS through numerous science education grants totaling more than $7.8 million over the last fourteen years.

For more information, contact:

Sandra Shmookler, special assistant
MCPS Office of the Chief Operating Officer
301-279-3432 or

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