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Elon Academy scholars visit with undergraduate researchers

High school scholars in the Elon Academy learned Thursday afternoon of the opportunities to do original research in college when they partnered with Elon University students taking part in the Summer Undergraduate Research Experiences program.

Nineteen university students, conducting research ranging from speed performance to stereotypes of alcohol users, led the academy scholars to labs and classrooms across campus June 24 following lunch in Harden Dining Hall.

“It seemed like a natural connection, bringing these two groups together,” said professor Paul Miller, director of undergraduate research at Elon. “It allowed Elon Academy scholars to see that learning doesn’t just take place in a classroom with textbooks.”

Among the many places on campus visited by academy scholars and undergraduate researchers was the McMichael Science Building. On the top floor in a chemistry lab, nearly a dozen teens watched film develop using instant coffee and washing soda.

That was followed by ice cream made when professor Karl Sienerth and several Elon students mixed cream with liquid nitrogen. The demonstrations captivated the audience of young minds. “I like to see how things are done,” said Thalia Solalvarro, a senior at Graham High School. “It would be interesting to do something like this.”

Elon Academy Scholars assisted Elon senior Victoria Van Vliet with developing camera film using instant coffee and washing soda.

Elon University launched the Elon Academy in 2006 to give students from local high schools the opportunity to embrace education, develop leadership skills and engage in various outreach venues.

Modeled after similar programs at Princeton, Furman and Vanderbilt universities, the academy is a year-round program for students in the Alamance-Burlington School System who have financial need or have no family history of college attendance. It combines three intensive four-week summer residential experiences at Elon with a variety of academic activities throughout the school year.

Its goal is to inspire and empower students to attend four-year colleges or universities, and go on to assume leadership roles in their communities.

Miller said university students taking part in SURE should also learn from the experience. “I hope students see there’s a responsibility to being a scholar, to engage with others and to teach what they’re doing,” he said.

That was the lesson Victoria Van Vliet drew from her lesson to students on camera film and instant coffee. The rising senior and chemistry major from Pinehurst, N.C., is developing lab assignments to use in general chemistry courses.

Sharing her work with high school students, she said, helps her organize thoughts for crafting the written instructions to be used by future college students.

“Sitting here and doing lab work myself is one thing,” she said. “Explaining it to people and making it understandable is completely different. Hopefully, this sparks their interest in a growing field.”


Professor Karl Sienerth and several Elon University students made ice cream using liquid nitrogen on Thursday in a program that introduced high school students in the Elon Academy to undergraduate research projects taking place with current Elon students.
Eric Townsend,
6/24/2010 4:57 PM