Woodward magazine should be arriving in mailboxes over the next week, and in it, we are focused on the future. 2020 feels like an impossible myth of science fiction, but believe it or not, it's already here. As educators, we must rise to meet our students where they are, and, together, embrace the opportunities as well as face the hardships. One area in which we are helping to shape the future is with our Independent Scientific Research program in the Upper School. To learn more about the program, we talked with Upper School Science Teacher Kevin Hurysz (a condensed version of this interview will appear in the magazine).
Beyond the Gate: Can you describe the ISR program and your role within it?
Kevin Hurysz: ISR stands for Independent Scientific Research. It’s a class usually taken by seniors who have spent the summer between their junior and senior years performing authentic laboratory research work alongside a faculty research advisor, a mentor here at Woodward, and me as the teacher of the class. I act as a facilitator, a liaison between all those involved, and a sounding board as the students engage in their research projects, enter competitions (such as the Regeneron Science Talent Search, formerly the Intel Science Talent Search) by writing a formal research paper in the fall, and prepare a poster for presentation and deliver a scientific talk to the Woodward community during a luncheon in the spring.
BTG: What kinds of skills and ideas do your students work on in the ISR program? Are there some standout projects you could describe in a line or two?
KH: The ISR program fosters critical thinking skills and uniquely prepares students in a variety of methods of technical communication. They also get to experience and participate in the day to day activities of their chosen research laboratory. Last year, the project conducted by Sydney Hallas with Dr. Ben Emerson at the Georgia Institute of Technology, won a prestigious Regeneron Semi-Finalist award for her work, “Using Laser Diagnostics to Determine the Behaviors of Reacting Jets Injected Perpendicularly into a Vitiated Cross-Flow”. In combustion research, laser diagnostics provide an accurate, non-intrusive way to gather information about the behavior of the flame such as the location of the flame front, the density of the components of the reaction, and the instantaneous velocities of particles within the flame.
BTG: Why is an opportunity like ISR valuable or important? Are there reasons why it especially matters in this day and age?
KH: To the student interested in scientific exploration of any kind, ISR provides a window into a lifestyle and career path that the student gets to participate in. Beyond the research experience, the student has the opportunity to interact with others at all levels of the scientific pyramid: undergraduates, the shoes our seniors will be filling in short order, graduate students, post-docs, professors, and advisors. Woodward ISR students build and foster these relationships and keep them long into the future.
BTG: What do you hope kids take away from your work with them? How do you think your work helps prepare them for the future?
KH: I think our students achieve an appreciation for the research process as part of this program: the time, the effort, the energy, and the hurdles related to asking and answering the fundamental questions about how our universe works. Our students finish their projects better able to collect, analyze, and present data concisely and both technically and in a way the layperson is able to understand. Even though not all ISR students pursue college majors and careers directly related to scientific research, the communication skills they build can be applied universally.