High School Students Aim Higher with Research at Embry-Riddle

Luminous Blue Variables

Over the past nine weeks, two Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University professors have acted as mentors to three high school seniors from BASIS Charter School in Prescott, Arizona.

The BASIS Senior Project program allows students to engage with university faculty to develop unique research projects. Seniors Edie Lamar, Edward Avila and Payton Butler are completing off-campus internships that could become the foundation for future careers in chemistry, programming and space physics.

Embarking on Advanced Research Assignments

Recognizing the gap between pre-designed labs and a school’s unique educational needs, Lamar developed experiments using Fourier-Transform Infrared (FTIR) Spectroscopy and a microplate reader for measuring absorbance. Under the guidance of Dr. Teresa Eaton, associate professor of Chemistry, Lamar tested and refined multiple procedures to find the most effective lab process for a second-semester university chemistry course.

Learn more about the project in Lamar’s student blog.

Using telescopes, NASA sources and Python programming techniques, Avila focused on how scientists perform astronomical research on Earth. Working alongside Dr. Noel Richardson, assistant professor of Physics and Astronomy, Avila learned to collect, analyze and interpret astronomical data.

Learn more about the project in Avila’s student blog.

Butler’s interest in Luminous Blue Variables (LBVs) led him to investigate a rare type of star that fluctuates in brightness, color and size. Mentored by Dr. Richardson, Butler gathered valuable data using university equipment and the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).

Learn more about the project in Butler’s student blog.

Developing Essential Skills

Both Avila and Butler worked extensively with Astronomy graduating senior Becca Spejcher, who helped teach them how to script in Python.

“These two students have done well at producing interesting research results,” said Richardson. “I am proud to have had them on my research team this year.”

Exposure to university professors and equipment can influence a student’s growth and college readiness. As Lamar, Avila and Butler conclude their internships, they have earned an advanced lesson in independence and professional development.

“Edie’s contribution as a mentee was exceptional,” said Eaton. “Throughout our collaboration, I was consistently impressed by her intelligence, professionalism and problem-solving skills. I am confident that the positive impact of these interns’ work will inspire other professors to host similar opportunities in the future.”