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Future scientists present their research at Steppin' Out August 3


BLACKSBURG, Va., July 26, 2007 – Participants in the Second Annual Young Scientist Experience at Virginia Tech will present their project demonstrations at Steppin' Out in Downtown Blacksburg on Friday, August 3, from 1:30 to 4:30p.m.

The Young Scientist Experience is an outreach program sponsored by the National Science Foundation as part of the Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates in Field-Responsive Materials, led by Judy Riffle, professor of chemistry in the College of Science and researcher in Virginia Tech's Macromolecules and Interfaces Institute. The program selects rising sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students from area middle schools and the home school community to come to Virginia Tech for three afternoons in June and work with undergraduate and graduate students.

This year's program participants are:

  • Hayden Burch of Riner,
  • Catherine Christian of Blacksburg,
  • Jonathan Cribb of Salem,
  • Sam Fortier of Blacksburg,
  • Nicholas Fuller of Riner,
  • Adam Gardner of Floyd,
  • Bailey Gardner of Floyd,
  • Ellison Heil of Salem,
  • Sam Lesko of Blacksburg,
  • Dakota Linkous of Elliston,
  • John Mattingly of Blacksburg,
  • Michael Mecham of Blacksburg,
  • Jeff Robertson of Blacksburg,
  • Lexie Robinson of Blacksburg,
  • Aaron Tsang of Riner, and
  • Katie Underwood of Radford.

The participants learn about a particular area of cutting edge research in science and engineering, prepare a demonstration project and presentation poster, and to present their demonstration to the public at Steppin' Out, the annual summer street fair in downtown Blacksburg. The public has the opportunity to vote for their favorite demonstration.

"It is our goal, and the NSF's goal, to reach school-age students early to foster a love of and interest in science and engineering," said Riffle. "The program also offers our summer undergraduate research students an opportunity to mentor and teach the young scientists."

In 2006, the first year of the program, six middle school students participated. "This year, we are pleased to host 16 students who are preparing demonstrations in four areas of science and engineering," Riffle said.

Areas to be demonstrated are: Magnetic Fluids for Biomedical Applications, one of Riffle's areas of research; Proton-Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells, with faculty sponsor David Dillard, professor of engineering science and mechanics in the College of Engineering; Opto-Electronics, with faculty sponsor Randy Heflin, professor of physics; and Electrospinning, with faculty sponsor Tim Long, professor of chemistry.

Maggie Bump, post doctoral associate in chemistry, and Cortney Martin, post doctoral associate in industrial and systems engineering, designed and directed the program. Shannon Ball, a rising sophomore at Blacksburg High School, assisted with program coordination.

"The Young Scientist Experience is a highlight of the Summer Undergraduate Research Program in Field-Responsive Materials," said Riffle.