Research Courses

Aquatic Environmental Science

Students will practice the skills of an environmental scientist by investigating human impacts on rivers, streams and ponds, with focus on water chemistry, heavy metals in stream water and sediments, emerging contaminants in municipal wastewater effluents, and endocrine disruption. Field-based experiences will focus on local Boone area environmental problems that will serve as the basis for a variety of student-centered research projects. Biological topics will include aquatic population and biodiversity responses to toxins or disturbance, lab & field sampling and analytical methods, and statistical analysis of data. As a field course, students will visit sites in Boone and surrounding areas to take advantage of the large number of high quality and unique water resources. Therefore, appropriate shoes and clothing that can get wet/muddy are needed. Students will also canoe sections of the New River and camp over a two day period. Students will need to bring a sleeping bag and tent for this excursion. Each student will develop a research hypothesis, collect necessary data to test this hypothesis, provide a written report of their project, and present their findings at the closing symposium.

Biomedical Science

This research course will utilize pre-term labor as its case study, which is a common health problem in Northwestern North Carolina (many times more in African Americans than other groups). Students will screen subfractions of the herb, Echinacea, to see their effectiveness in blocking expression of inflammatory factors in the birth canal of an infection-induced preterm labor animal model. The class will involve basic research, using animal models, and presentation on the medical perspective of pre-term labor in women, to help students see the connection between the lab and the bed-side. The objectives of the course are as follows: to reinforce key scientific concepts as outlined above, to better self-efficacy through mastery of the following basic biomedical research techniques (animal handling, tissue processing, protein, RNA and DNA isolations, determination of RNA and protein concentrations, RT-PCR, gel-based PCR, Real-Time PCR , Western blot and confocal immunofluorescence, data analysis), and to increase the awareness of the problems of pre-term labor. Students will acquire transferable soft and hard skills through mastery of biomedical research technical skills and scientific process, see the connection between biomedical research and the bedside, learn to work as a team, and learn of career opportunities in medicine and biomedical research. All students will complete a research paper to be presented at the research symposia at the end of the program. Completion of AP Chemistry and/or AP Biology is preferred.

Exploratory Data Analysis

In today's data driven society, it is a pre-requisite of those studying science and mathematics that they understand data collection, analysis and application. In this course, we will deeply examine the process by which we collect and manipulate data. Please note, this is not an introductory statistics course. Our focus will be on interpretation of data as opposed to development of statistical theory. We will explore applications of data within the context of topics including, but not limited to, statistical inference, game theory, voting theory, rank order data, data envelopment analysis as well as data applications within the social sciences. Students will explore techniques investigating both quantitative and qualitative data through experimental design and simulation. Students will work both individually and collaboratively to obtain a mastery of the topics presented. At the conclusion of the course students will either generate their own data or use available data sets to develop their own unique research project that includes producing a paper and preparing an oral presentation.

Flight Science

The first rockets ever built, the fire-arrows of the Chinese, were not very reliable. Many just exploded on launching! Today, rockets are much more reliable. They fly on precise courses and are capable of going fast enough to escape the gravitational pull of Earth. How is this done? We will investigate the fascinating scientific theories involved with rocketry, including physical principles such as Newton's Laws, the aerodynamic forces that operate on objects in flight (weight, lift, drag, and thrust), different propellants and various engineering concepts such as stability and optimal mass. Applying this knowledge will allow us to design, construct, and test various models to investigate the aerodynamic capabilities and challenges of rocketry. Students will complete investigations by designing, flying and refining actual model rockets. Finally, they will present their findings via a written descriptive research paper and oral presentation.

Global Climate Change

“The 21st century may become known as the Climate Century, yet the majority of citizens do not have a basic understanding of the dynamics of the atmosphere and climate processes” (NOAA, 2007).  The urgency of the changing climate demands a greater understanding of our climate system, not only by the leaders of today, but by the scientists, policy makers, and citizens of tomorrow. In this class students will acquire the scientific background and develop skills necessary to understand elements of global climate change. Students will employ the scientific method to answer problems and address issues that focus on aspects of global climate change. In guided experiments, students will develop a scientific hypothesis, collect data relevant to the hypothesis using research-grade meteorological instruments as well as with online weather and climate models, examine the data using quantitative and graphic techniques, and reach conclusions about their stated hypothesis. Through reading and discussion, students will be introduced to controversial issues in global climate change. Students will gain skills in graphing, interpreting, and presenting scientific data that are relevant to any STEM discipline. At the end of the course, results from student research projects will be presented via a written paper and oral presentation. Completion of AP Chemistry, Physics, or Environmental Science is preferred.