Close, really close

Close, really close

May 19, 2013

Pierre-François Wolf, Chelsea Fujimoto, both Class of '15
Wolf and Fujimoto

What’s the best way to engage young scientists? Two Skidmore sophomores believe the secret involves learning by doing. Toward that end, they arranged a demonstration day in Skidmore’s Microscopy Imaging Center (SMIC) for area high school students as their Periclean Honors Forum citizenship project.

Chelsea Fujimoto and Pierre-François Wolf, both Class of ’15, designed and presented the event, and were advised by Amanda Andreas, SMIC coordinator. About 50 honors students from Galway, Schuylerville, and Broadalbin attended the interactive microscopy exhibition, which they gave good reviews.

To prepare for their presentation Fujimoto and Wolfe completed in-depth research on the applications of both fluorescence and electron microscopy, including training on the equipment. In their proposal the pair noted, “We are both fascinated with the technology and application of microscopy and hope to learn more, both in the context of technical skills and theoretical knowledge, on our way to brining information to others at the end of the semester.”

They became familiar with Skidmore’s confocal laser scanning microscope, the scanning electron microscope, and the transmission electron microscope. Fujimoto, a biology major, focused on the biological applications, while Wolfe, who plans to major in physics and enroll in a dual-degree engineering program, dealt with the physical workings of both microscopes.

Wolf describes microscope applications
Wolf describes microscope applications

Fujimoto and Wolfe wrote in their proposal, “The main focus of this project is to promote interest in the sciences by showing how people can explore the unseen worlds that we encounter, not only in scientific research, but in our everyday lives.” They continued, “By showing both the physical and biological aspects of microscopy, it should be clear to the visiting students that progress is achieved through collaborative efforts and work done in the context of many cross-disciplinary fields.” Moreover, “The intersection between biology and physics will be emphasized with an interdisciplinary approach—a perspective that is often lost in high school classes.”

Visiting teachers and students were impressed by the program, especially the access to advanced science equipment. Brian Henry of Broadalbin High School said, “This is a treat.

Schuylerville students in lab
Schuylerville students in lab

We have the standard light microscopes at our school, but nothing on this level.” Dave Conneally of Schuylerville Central High School called the program “definitely valuable. Our students are getting an idea of what they can pursue during their college years.” And Bridget Alber of Schuylerville, who is interested in studying math and science in college, called the program “really interesting.”

Skidmore Biology Professor David Domozych gave two thumbs up as well. “Chelsea and Pierre did a remarkable job, especially for undergraduate students. They spent weeks developing the program and then countless hours the past few days implementing it. Their goal was to expose high school students to science and technology, a clearly important need for the future of our country. In addition to short lectures, they provided hands-on opportunities for the students. It was a good day for science students at Skidmore—we are proud."

Amanda Andreas, project advisor
Project advisor Amanda Andreas

Domozych continued, “The presentations by Chelsea and Pierre gave these high school students a taste for the high-tech world that awaits them and opportunities that are there for them. The program also demonstrated that high technology and a liberal arts education are not mutually exclusive. In fact, in today's world, they should go hand-in-hand—a sort of evolution of the liberal arts experience.”

Fujimoto and Wolf appreciated the positive response. “We more than met our goals for the event,” they acknowledged. “More high school students attended than we expected, and all of them were allowed to operate the microscopes and take images of prepared samples.”

The Skidmore students saw advantages that went beyond the lab. “Though the students were quiet and attentive at the different microscope stations, they opened up during the reception and spoke with us about everything from microscopes to what to expect in college. The biology and physics professors were also very supportive.”

The high school teachers expressed interested in participating in future iterations of SMIC day, leading Fujimoto and Wolfe to conclude, “We are both going to try and repeat this event in following years.”

(Feature photo: Chelsea Fujimoto describes microscope applications to Broadalbin students and teacher Brian Henry. All photos by Nghia Luu '14.)

Tags: Admissions, Campus Life, Chelsea Fujimoto '15, Pierre-François Wolf '15, Periclean Honors Forum, Galway, Broadalbin, Schuylerville high schools, David Domozych, Amanda Andreas
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