In efforts to develop a unique pedagogy for underrepresented high school and undergraduate students, we developed a pilot study to determine the effectiveness of vertically integrating STEM research education from high school students through Ph.D. candidates. The interdisciplinary research project's overarching goal is to assess the impact of environmental pollutants (specifically, platinum group elements found in road dust) on eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells and develop computational models to predict the outcomes of exposure. Ultimately, the project involves elements of fate and transport of platinum group elements in soil, water, and air and their impacts on environmental microbiology, eukaryotic cell signaling, and environmental computational modeling. Our vertically integrated and aligned mentorship model paired high school students with undergraduates, M.S. students, and Ph.D. students in various laboratories. To complement their laboratory research exposure, students also attended professional development seminars on résumé preparation, literature mining/searching, preparation of manuscripts, presentation of data, and critical reading of peerreviewed articles. Our pilot study was very successful in exposing future STEM workers (high school students and college undergraduates) to meaningful research experiences that they translated into seven poster and oral presentations, three review articles (in preparation), three journal articles, and improved attitudes toward STEM careers.
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Vol. 78 • No. 9