• Emily Niemeyer, professor of chemistry
    Emily Niemeyer, professor of chemistry

Southwestern University has received a $443,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education that will enable it to offer three different summer programs for high school students and teachers in the coming years.

The grant will fund a three-year summer program in math and science for traditionally underserved high school students, a three-year summer program of computer science workshops for middle and high school teachers, and one year of an existing college preparation summer program for low-income, first generation, predominantly Latina/o high school students.

The summer science and math program for high school students will be directed by Emily Niemeyer, professor of chemistry at Southwestern. The program will start in the summer of 2011 and will be available to about 15 students from the Georgetown area. Niemeyer said the goal of the program is to give high school students a feel for what it would be like to go to college and major in the sciences. She said she also hopes the program will encourage more women and members of other groups that are underrepresented in fields such as chemistry to pursue careers in the sciences.

Over the course of five weeks, participants in the program will attend an introductory chemistry class taught by Willis Weigand, associate professor of chemistry; a calculus class taught by Alison Marr, assistant professor of mathematics; and a forensic biology class taught by Biology Laboratory Manager Linda Southwick. They also will do chemistry research under the direction of Southwestern faculty members and will be mentored by Southwestern students who are participating in the summer research program funded by the Robert A. Welch Foundation.

“We want them to see what a college research experience is like,” Niemeyer said.

The summer computer science workshops for middle and high school teachers will be directed by Suzanne Buchele, associate professor of computer science at Southwestern. Buchele said the two-week program will emphasize computer technology skills that are used in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields such as algorithmic design, Excel programming, Java programming and the inclusion of Java applets in web pages.

“Many math and science teachers didn’t take any computer science classes in college, and so they may feel limited in their approaches to directing their students to use computers effectively in mathematical and scientific work, whereas in the real world computers are regularly used as a tool in the STEM fields,” Buchele said.     Buchele noted that enrollment in computer science classes at the high school and university level has been declining at the same time that demand for computer science professionals has been rising. “It may be helpful for students to see real ways in which computers can be used as tools in the sciences, which in turn may help to counter the perception of computer science as only a ‘geeky white male’ endeavor,” she said.

This program is also expected to start in the summer of 2011 and will accept up to 15 middle and high school math and science teachers.

The grant also will fund a third year of the Vicente Villa Summer Scholars program, which was offered for the first time in 2010. This program was developed by Stephen Marble, associate professor of education. This five-week program offers high school students a “mini-liberal arts experience” that includes math and English classes, research with a faculty member, and workshops on completing college applications and understanding financial aid.


Related News & Events