Professor aims to pique interest in science

February 06, 2002

Professor aims to pique interest in science


CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A Wilson College professor is hoping a summer science program aimed at middle and junior high school girls will eventually boost the number of women in math and science fields.

"It is in the middle-school grades that girls make decisions about their future study of science and mathematics," said Dana Harriger, project director and assistant professor of biology.

"It is important to reach them in these critical years and show them how exciting a career in the sciences can be," he said.

With the help of a grant, the women's college will invite 20 girls from Franklin and surrounding counties to spend a week devoted to science this July at Wilson.


"The idea behind this stems from a project I did with junior high kids in the fall and realizing that students need to have more interaction with science at this age," Harriger said. "Since Wilson is a women's college, we felt we wanted to push into the girls at this age and try to pique their interest in science."

Harriger said a lot of girls in the eighth, ninth and 10th grades start to lose interest in the subject while boys at that age begin to excel.

He hopes the summer program will get more girls thinking about future careers in the sciences.

"Science is predominated by males, although the trend in veterinary medicine has changed," he said. "We want to maintain interest and get them started."

The program will be funded by a three-year, $150,000 grant from the Whitaker Foundation and will draw students from Franklin, Dauphin, Cumberland and Perry counties.

Harriger has begun contacting the science departments in the middle schools in those counties to let them know about the Summer Science Institute. Interested students must submit a short essay and a letter of recommendation from a teacher.

The grant will fund the entire program and will allow the girls to spend the week in a residence hall on campus with a couple of peer teachers - current science majors at Wilson.

"They will be living in a scientific setting," Harriger said.

The week will focus on one overall concept, and the daily labs will build on each other.

Each day will begin with a morning discussion on the upcoming lab, followed by the experiment and wrap-up sessions in which the students discuss their findings.

Because the Whitaker Foundation, a private, nonprofit foundation established in 1975, is dedicated to improving human health through the support of biomedical engineering, the week will focus on biochemistry and molecular biology.

The grant also allowed the college to purchase new equipment, including compound microscopes and molecular lab equipment.

When the grant runs out in three years, Harriger hopes to have lined up outside funding or corporate sponsorships to continue the sessions.

Participants will be eligible to return in future summers to undertake new or advanced work.

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