Indiana High School Students Team Up with IUP Faculty for PJAS Research

Posted on 3/9/2017 2:17:08 PM

Indiana Area High School Science Club students

Indiana Area High School Science Club students participating in the Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science competition at Slippery Rock University.

On February 25, 2017, 12 Indiana Area high school students traveled to Slippery Rock University to compete in the Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science fair. Students competed in multiple categories, including Earth and Space, Biology, and Social Sciences. Of the IAHS entries in the science fair, 10 students earned first-place awards and the right to attend the state level competition at Penn State. Many of these students have been working with IUP faculty members on their research projects since last fall.

The IAHS Science Club was founded in 2013 starting with only two students competing, and it has grown tremendously in a few short years. The 2016–17 school year has brought great opportunities for students in the club due in part to a partnership forged by Emily Hixson, IHS science teacher, and Holly Travis of the IUP Biology Department. Students had the opportunity to participate in university-level research in botany, biology, chemistry, and geoscience.

Included in the first-place awards were two perfect scores by Layan Jouhari (working with N. Bharathan (Protein Profiling – Rhizoctoria solari) and Grace Woolslayer (working with Robert Major – Autophagy/Regeneration Link) for their work in biology. Matt Berzonsky and Julian Yerger (both working with Steve Hovan) were nominated and recognized for an honorable mention for the Go-Green award for their work in monitoring methane emissions from orphaned gas wells. Julian Yerger and Grace Woolslayer also earned a “Special Award” in their respective categories.

Other students receiving first-place awards in their categories were Layan Jourhari (N. Bharathan –Protein Profiling – Rhizoctoria solari), Tian Schiera (Ellen Yerger – DNA comparison between invasive species in US and in native China), Rachel Okey (Robert Major Autophagy/Regeneration Link), Ella Zhang (Jana Villemain (protein structure) and Shane Moran (Holly Travis – Impact of fresh and frozen food sources on stick insect (Phasmid) growth and development). Joey Budjos (Steve Hovan – methane emissions from defunct wells) got a second-place award, and Raeleigh Smith (David Janetski – (yellow perch annuli) got a third-place award.

In addition to the upcoming state level competition, students will be participating in the Convestro Pittsburgh Regional Science and Engineering Fair at the Carnegie Science Center, where they will compete for scholarships, cash awards, and grants. Successful competitors at this fair may earn the chance to compete in the national Intel Science and Engineering Fair fair held in Los Angeles.

Members of the IHS science club are Matt Berzonsky, Joey Bujdos, Layan Jouhari, Angel Lin, Talia Mastalski, Kathryn Metzger, Shane Moran, Rachel Okey, Tian Schiera, Raeleigh Smith, Grace Woolslayer, Julian Yerger, and Ell Zhang.  Advisors of the club are Emily Hixson, Jamie Edmonds, and Mike Lehman. Additional students involved in research with IUP faculty who were unable to present at PJAS include Hannah Erdely (Ellen Yerger – DNA comparison between invasive species in the U.S. and in native China) and Angel Lin (Jana Villemain – protein structure).

The club sponsors would like to thank the Indiana School Board, Wade McElheny, principal of IHS, Deanne Snavely, dean of the IUP College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and all of the IUP professors who have and are continuing to support our efforts to mentor tomorrow’s scientists and engineers.