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Middle college students rub elbows with researchers

A group of young minds from OTC’s Middle College recently got the opportunity to study science with local researchers and professors.

OTC’s Middle College offers high school students, challenged by traditional education settings, an alternative education opportunity in a variety of program areas including science.

Selected students met with professors from Missouri State University and the Jordan Valley Innovation Center (JVIC) for four weeks. They worked with a different researcher every day in an attempt to survey various aspects of scientific research.

Students participated in facility tours, research discussions and laboratory procedures. They were exposed to equipment worth millions of dollars.

“We were creating tomorrow’s researchers today,” said Stephanie Blake, OTC physics and chemistry instructor. “We wanted the students to know that their Associate of Arts degree they earn here can result in earning degrees at MSU.”

Blake said the idea for the course came from Dr. David Cornelison, MSU department head of physics, astronomy and materials science.

He worked with Blake to develop the class that would help recruit students into chemistry and physics programs, promote MSU’s College of Natural and Applied Sciences as a transfer option and showcase the research positions available locally to keep talented students in the area.

At JVIC, students worked with representatives from Brewer Science, Mercy Research and Development, the Center for Biological and Life Sciences, and the Center for Applied Science and Engineering.

On the last day of classes, students spoke about their time in the program and what they took away from it.

Shelby Shaffer from Central High School said she wasn’t sure what she was going to do before taking the class but now “I changed my view on science and what it’s like to be a researcher.”

Lydia Mueller from Parkview High School said she wanted to study veterinarian medicine but is thinking about other fields “that I could go into if I became a researcher.”

“I got to do a lot of things hands-on in the program,” she said. “I appreciate the experience and the amazing people I got to work with.”

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