Early Exposure to Real Research

February 03, 2019

Maureen Quin is giving high school students a real-life laboratory experience.

AHA students in lab

Pictured above: Quin (right) poses with Academy of Holy Angel students who've been working in her lab.

Enthusiasm can be contagious, just ask Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biophysics Research Assistant Professor Maureen Quin. It all started over a cup of tea when a friend asked Quin how her lab work was going. Quin’s response was so animated that her friend remarked that her high school-aged daughter just had to meet her.

Now, months later, Quin has not only connected with her friend’s daughter, but launched a full-blown initiative introducing biology-minded high schoolers to a laboratory setting. So far, Quin has hosted several groups of Richfield-based Academy of Holy Angels students who assist her with a MnDRIVE-funded project she is leading. The program’s enthusiastic reception has even resulted in a waitlist of students queuing up for their turn. Not to mention, one recent student volunteer, Anh Vo (pictured above at far left), is joining the College as a biochemistry student this coming fall. Quin answered a few of our questions about the program's implementation and plans for the future.

Can you give a brief overview of the program and its goal?
I have been hosting groups of Academy of Holy Angels high school students in the lab to help work on a MnDRIVE funded project called "Advanced biocomposite materials for bioremediation" that I am Co-PI of. The goal of the MnDRIVE project is to develop a biocomposite material for on-site clean up of toxic metals in water from mine drainage in northern Minnesota.

How did the idea come about?
I made a connection through my friend who is a mom. She was so impressed how enthusiastic I was in describing my research that she mentioned how her daughter would love to hear about my research and visit the lab. Turns out, her daughters' friends wanted to come visit the lab too ... and then the friends' friends also wanted to come once they'd heard about it.

I have been hosting high school students, as well as transfer students, and underrepresented minority students in my lab for years because I believe it is a gift to pass on a love of science to kids interested in a STEM career. This project is ideal for getting kids interested and involved in lab research because it will help our local environment in Minnesota, which they can easily relate to.

What feedback have you gotten from the students involved?
The students love it! They say it is a great learning experience, gives them the opportunity to learn lab skills they don't learn at school, and is really fun. Gillian tells me there is a ton of interest at the school, and there was an article in the school magazine about it.

What are your hopes for the future of this program?
I'd love to see more students come to visit! (I have another group of 6 students waiting for their turn). It would be great if teams of students from several local high schools could be hosted by multiple different labs in CBS for a summer research experience, because there are so many different research areas that the kids would enjoy. Plus, it would be a brilliant way to begin recruiting the most inquisitive and brightest students and to get them to think about applying to CBS for college. This is an initiative just begging to be started!

-Gina Van Thomme