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Chemistry students pursue cooperative adventure at UAH

Chemistry students from Bob Jones High School have undertaken “a cooperative adventure” at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Carol Bohatch, chemistry teacher at Bob Jones, said her Madison students are working as research assistants in dual enrollment with UAH. Dr. Emanuel Waddell, UAH associate professor of chemistry, is guiding their research.

Past and present participants are Alex Bennett, Abigail Peterson, Abrahim Imam, Gabby Jones, A’Yonnika Rogers and Ryan Carlton.

“It’s designed for real-world experience rather than a transferable credit,” Bohatch said. “We’ve had one or two students working in this capacity each semester for about five years.”

As research assistants, students apply their content knowledge to a practical application. The students also can “do real science in a real scientific setting,” Bohatch said.

“Dr. Waddell has a great gift of encouraging the students to investigate a project that both interests (them) and that they can accomplish using their high school knowledge,” she said.

Hopefully, students discover an aptitude that aids their college choices.

Waddell said the program grew from his similar experience as a high school student. “I was fortunate enough to have a research experience at North Carolina State University,” Waddell said. “It exposed me to academics and provided insight into a research career.”

“It’s simply a way to pass the experience forward,” he said.

“Young students are bright enough to perform basic laboratory research but have not yet reached the point (of) convincing themselves something will not work,” Waddell said.

The Bob Jones students’ behavior has been eager, refreshing and without fear of failure, he said.

In the lab, the students perform exploratory experiments or small projects, including laser spectroscopy and inexpensive manufacture of miniaturized devices.

“The Bob Jones faculty has been excellent at identifying students for the program,” Waddell said. “Department chair Dr. William Setzer and Dean of the College of Science Dr. Jack Fix have been supportive. It assists us in exposing students to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.”

“It’s a ‘win-win’ for the department and students,” Waddell said. Bohatch hopes the program expands to other disciplines like biology.

For more information, visit chemistry.uah.edu.

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