UMaine Graduate Students Tutor Local High School Students with Great Results

Posted July 8, 2013

UMaine graduate students are tutoring local area high school students with great results. Nathan Dee and Mary Butler, both students at Bangor High, have won awards for their work: Dee won the Maine 2013 Stockholm Junior Water Prize and will compete in the national competition in Portland, Oregon, while Butler won the state science fair to go on to the national INTEL competition in Phoenix, Arizona. Dee was tutored by doctoral student in chemistry James Killarney and Butler was tutored by doctoral student in chemical engineering Finley Richmond. The connection between UMaine and the Bangor High science department came about largely due to the influence of science teacher Cary James, UMaine alumnus from the Master of Science in Botany and Plant Pathology program. His work building relationships at the University has led to many graduate students working with high school students on projects. The goals, according to James, are primarily to get high school students excited about research and to allow them to have access to the labs and equipment at UMaine. “So many of the professors and students have been instrumental in this process, have been willing to help out, and really make a difference for my students.”

Most of the projects the students work on together have a focus on water conservation and sanitation with the aim to get high school students interested in research that could improve quality of life conditions for people in poverty or disaster situations. Richmond explained the role he played in tutoring Butler’s research as helping her decide what equipment to use, training her on the equipment, answering questions, and monitoring safe use of the equipment at all times. Additionally, he “helps students interpret their results and guides them on the next steps.” Killarney worked with Dee as part of a NASA funded MERITS program that is a development program for exceptional high school students. He said, “The goal of the program and of our lab is to take these gifted students and give them the tools and experience necessary to advance them into future leaders in their chosen field. My role was as a mentor. My job was to guide him so he could study his research question and really understand the process of basic research.” Dee will be listed as a co-author on a paper the lab is submitting to Environmental Science and Chemistry about measuring the interaction of pharmaceutical pollutants with natural organic matter in water.

For more information on the awards Dee and Butler won please go here and here.