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Future geoscientists join the big leagues

December 19, 2003

Photo of Claire Bailey, Miray Vavro, Cecelia Huang, Darrel Daquigan, Diana Long, Professor Lisa White and Melanie SottoThirteen Burton High sophomores in SFSU's Reaching Out to Communities and Kids with Science (SF ROCKS) program showcased their scientific findings last week at the annual fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco.

"It's the first time that AGU invited high school students to present scientific posters at the annual fall meeting," said geology professor and SF ROCKS director Lisa White. "I'm so proud of them."

The students joined more than 9,800 scientists from around the world at Moscone West where they presented posters on four research projects:

• "Does Geothermal Energy Production Cause Earthquakes in the Geysers Region of Northern California?"
• "Sediment Distribution in Central San Francisco Bay in the Vicinity of Racoon Strait"
• "Water Quality Analysis of San Francisco's Yosemite Creek Watershed"
• "Comparison of Five Weather Forecast Methods at Four California Locations"

SF ROCKS seeks to introduce students to the Earth sciences by providing training and lesson plans to ninth-grade science teachers and their students. The program also offers mentoring relationships between the kids, college students, high school educators and university faculty.

In the summer, 14 of the top 10th grade students participated in a two-week research institute, and in the fall they met with professors each week to learn how to apply geoscience to the study of environmental problems.

"Before I had no interest in science, but now I might major in one of the sciences when I go to college," SF ROCKS participant Kathy Tan said. "I really grew to enjoy doing research on the weather. It's like your predicting the future."

The students presented their findings at the AGU conference as part of its new program called Bright STARS (Students Training as Research Scientists).

They will remember their poster session for a long time, said Ray Pestrong, geology professor and SF ROCKS mentor. "I didn’t get to do anything like this until I was in my doctoral program in my 20s -- they’re only sophomores in high school."

Michael Howell, associate professor of marine sciences at University of South Florida, was very impressed with their research and “how they were able to tell me why it is important and give me explanations. They can take scientific information and ask, 'How does this affect that and what are the implications of this?'."

Funded by the National Science Foundation, SF ROCKS is a partnership between SFSU, City College of San Francisco and the San Francisco Unified School District that aims to recruit high school students of color as geoscience majors. The program started with students at Burton High School and is expanding to four other San Francisco public high schools.

-- Susan Arthur


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Last modified December 19, 2003, by the Office of Public Affairs