Five Middle Tennessee State University graduate students will encounter an exchange of international scientific ideas for the next two weeks.
Bound for Chile in South America and joined in Miami, Fla., by two University of Puerto Rico grad students, they will work with students at two Santiago high schools for one week and fellow researchers at the University of Santiago the next, said biology professor Anthony Farone, who will accompany them on the trip.
The five MTSU grad students include Nicholas Chamberlain of Franklin, Tenn., Ashley Cole and Corbett Ouellette of Murfreesboro, Rachel Lytle of Brentwood, Tenn., and Eric Vick of Nashville. The group left Aug. 9 from Nashville International Airport.
The venture is part of a National Science Foundation-sponsored GK-12 grant that sends the grad students to teach and perform research in Davidson and Rutherford county high school classrooms. As an added component in the final year of the grant, NSF provided $65,000 for MTSU to take it to an international level.
“Our GK-12 Fellows (grad students) will be teaching and observing science,” said Farone, who will be joined on the trip by MTSU’s Karen Case, who coordinates the grant, and Hillwood High School teacher Rey Mora.
While in Chile, they will visit three biotech companies and visit the U.S. Embassy for a panel discussion with Chilean scientists on “our project in STEM education,” Farone said. STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Before flying out last week, the MTSU students spoke with enthusiasm about the trip.
“I’m excited about the trip. I’ve never been outside the country and I’ve never been to a scientific conference,” Ouellette (pronounced WOOL-LET) said. “Now I get to do two things rolled up in one. I’m excited about the food and culture, going to the embassy and getting to know more people that will allow me to have a more global perspective.”
Cole said she is looking forward “to establishing an international presence” with the high school students and “wanting to help us build a relationship with the University of Santiago.”
Vick, who conducts DNA research, said he hopes to meet with his international research partner “to set up a collaboration there. With the schools, they do more advanced study. I’ll be working with seniors, but will not be doing DNA manipulation until they are equipped to handle the concept.”
While all the students had a two-week crash course in Spanish through associate professor Shelley Thomas’ Center for Accelerated Language Acquisition, Lytle had had four years of the language at Father Ryan High School in Nashville and said she will be “kind of an interpreter.”
“I’m not so good at speaking (Spanish), but I can tell you what people are say,” she said. Lytle added that she will be interested to compare U.S. and Chilean high school classrooms.
Carmichael said he wants to see how the University of Santiago research lab is set up and managed “compared to how we do it at MTSU.”
Farone, who served as the co-leader of the project along with his wife, Mary, an associate professor in biology, said the trip “is a big endeavor.”
“If all goes well,” he added, “it’s going to be a continuing project with more students. Hopefully, we’ll go back in January and continue what we’ve started.”