The eight students collaborated to produce abstracts for the American Society for Gravitational and Space Research (ASGSR) based on an experiment they conducted in their Honors Biology class last year. With the assistance of Upper School science teacher Dr. Karin Mauer, Upper and Middle School STEAM coordinator Dan Bartels, and Collegiate alum Dr. Charles Marsh Cuttino ‘86, the students developed an experiment that was launched into space on May 2 in Blue Origin’s New Shepard space vehicle
Dr. Cuttino serves as regional president of ApolloMD and as chairman of emergency medicine at Henrico Doctors' Forest, Parham, Retreat and Westcreek Hospitals. He also owns the Richmond-based Orbital Medicine Inc., through which he has previously worked with the private aerospace company Blue Origin to launch his research projects into orbit.
He brought the idea to Collegiate in summer 2018 to have students involved in the May 2, 2019 Blue Origin launch, and Dr. Mauer and Mr. Bartels secured the interest of 48 of their students.
“What I was most impressed by was the amount of time the students invested in this research project outside of their responsibilities as students, and their willingness to stick with it throughout the entire process,” said Head of Upper School Patrick Loach. “Particularly when you’re conducting real science like this, there are things that don’t work and you have to go back to the drawing board. Our kids were really resilient in getting this project off the ground.”
The successful launch culminated with the students collaborating on the two abstracts
, and while several of the participating students graduated in May 2019, the Upper Schoolers who remain on campus were excited this week to learn that their work has been accepted.
The students who have been invited to the ASGSR Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, on Nov 20-23 to present their work are: seniors Mo Lyu, Deven Pandya, Shreya Sharma and Catherine Schwarzschild; and juniors Andrew Eastep, Becky Pahren, Emilie Yang and Bella Zeballos. They will be accompanied by Upper School science teachers Dr. Rebecca Hottman and Dr. David Headly.
Deven called the opportunity to take part in the extraterrestrial experiment as part of his biology class extremely exciting and unique. He credits Dr. Mauer and Mr. Bartels for their dedication and support.
“Rarely are students given the opportunity to take their available resources and make a new contribution to the world of science,” he said. “But, above all else, this experiment is a testament to the outstanding teachers we have at Collegiate and their unwavering investment in our success. Without Dr. Mauer and Mr. Bartels pushing us as students to supersede what we believed to be possible, there is no way this project could have succeeded.”
Dr. Mauer expressed pride in the students’ commitment: “It is very impressive that these students will have two publications when they graduate from Collegiate.”
Dr. Hottman said the opportunity for a high school student to publish and present original scientific research at a national conference is a rare and exceptional honor, and the chance for the Collegiate students to present their work will be an unparalleled learning experience.
“Most professionals do not achieve this benchmark until graduate school at the earliest,” she said. “Attending the conference will be a landmark event in these students' academic lives. They will interact with and receive feedback from professional scientists about their own research, and will also attend other sessions and see how scientists communicate with each other firsthand. They will experience the essence of how science works in real time.”