Army Education Outreach Program Supports Two Summer Research Projects

Grace Kresge (left) and Scott Huston are gaining research experience at Rutgers-Camden through the Army Education Outreach Program.

Grace Kresge (left) and Scott Huston are gaining research experience at Rutgers-Camden through the Army Education Outreach Program.

Scientific research doesn’t come with a set of instructions or a step-by-step guide that leads to a solution. If that were the case, it would take all of the fun out of discovery.

“We get in the lab and something doesn’t quite work, so you have to change your method on the fly to figure out a solution,” says Grace Kresge, a West Deptford resident who graduated from West Deptford High School in June.

“Research is definitely a lot less linear than I imagined it would be,” she says.

Kresge is performing research at Rutgers University–Camden this summer under the Army Research Office’s High School Apprenticeship Program (HSAP), which is designed to help students develop critical skills in science and engineering research within a university lab setting. Her project involves the design and characterization of aptamers, which are single-stranded DNA or RNA molecules that can bind to pre-selected targets including proteins and peptides.

Kresge will attend Princeton University in the fall, where she will major in chemical and biological engineering, but her research experience at Rutgers–Camden is giving her an advantage before she even begins her college career.

“This kind of hands-on research experience is not something that I got in high school,” she says. “I want to pursue research in college and having this background will hopefully lead to many other research experiences and I’m excited about that. Being able to work with equipment and learn research techniques gives me an advantage and shows that I’m prepared to work in a lab setting.”

Grace Kresge works on a project in a Rutgers-Camden lab.

Grace Kresge works on a project in a Rutgers-Camden lab.

Rutgers–Camden is one of 31 universities in the United States and Puerto Rico selected as a HSAP site. In addition to the high school research initiative, the Army Research Office chose Rutgers–Camden as one of 40 host universities for its Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program (URAP), which is also giving one Rutgers–Camden senior valuable research experience this summer.

Under the URAP program, Scott Huston, a Vineland resident and Vineland High School graduate who will graduate from Rutgers–Camden in December, is working on a bioelectricity conversion project. Huston says the work is a new experience for him that is helping him advance his own research skills.

“I started doing research in the spring and it’s nice to be able to work on a hands-on experiment,” Huston says. “It really builds your confidence and there’s freedom to be creative with what you’re doing while taking on a huge responsibility and collaborating with others.”

The research is being done under the supervision of Jinglin Fu, an assistant professor of chemistry at Rutgers–Camden.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for two students to gain interdisciplinary research experience and lay the foundation to develop their interests and skills for future participation in scientific research,” Fu says. “The students have worked hard and they’ve grasped what it takes to perform research at the college level.”

Both students receive an hourly stipend for up to 300 total research hours spent on the projects, which will conclude at the end of August.

The HSAP and URAP programs are conducted under the Army Education Outreach Program, which is committed to the advancement of education and literacy in the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering, and math. It provides students with collaborative opportunities that engage them in real-world STEM experiences.

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