It was an enlightening summer for Palm Beach County students and teachers, as a select group was able to further their knowledge of science and advanced technologies alongside Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience’s (MPFI) esteemed scientists during the 2017 summer internship programs. Six high school juniors and seniors worked with mentors on their own neuroscience research projects in the High School Summer Research Internship program, while one high school and one middle school teacher learned cutting edge techniques used in neuroscience research in the Teacher Internship Program.
For the High School Summer Research Internship, the students were chosen from a competitive pool of 57 local applicants. They were then matched with an individual research mentor, who guided them as they completed a relevant research project over the course of six weeks, from June 12 to July 21. When students apply, they choose one of three potential programs – neuroscience, mechanical engineering or scientific programming. On day one, the students are introduced to an MPFI expert in that field, who assigns them a question to solve over the course of their internship. With the help of their mentors, the students conduct background research, design experiments and test their solutions. They then prepare a written scientific abstract based on their project, and at the end of the program give a short presentation summarizing their work.
Six years ago, the internship program started with only two students completing projects with their mentors. Thanks to an anonymous gift of $309,000 two years ago, the program has continued to flourish. The donation has helped the Institute expand the program to include hands-on laboratory experiences and accept more students, as well as provide a daily travel budget for students who may live farther away.
MPFI’s two-week teacher internship offers educators an opportunity to learn about how scientists are using technology to gain understanding in the field of neuroscience, so they can take those tools and resources back to the classroom. Some of the topics covered during the internship, which ran from June 7 to 21, included immunohistochemistry, learning and memory, genotyping and imaging.
“This internship program opened my eyes, allowing me to recognize the importance of real-world application of science and technology, while working in a lab setting,” said Brittany Anderson, 7th Grade life science teacher at Bak Middle School of the Arts in West Palm Beach. “My students can now see me as not only their teacher, but a scientist and lifelong learner as well. This program is highly beneficial in allowing science teachers to grasp the importance of science methodology.”
Thanks to the internships, students and teachers will retain a unique understanding of scientists and research.
“Being able to see and have hands-on interaction with scientists who are at the forefront of investigating the biological basis of the human brain, the nervous system and neural communication was invaluable,” said Christy Holt, a Psychology, AP Psychology and AP U.S. History teacher at Boynton Beach Community High School. “I will incorporate into my lessons the research that [MPFI] is doing, specifically on the disorders that we study, like autism and Alzheimer’s.”