EC professor partnering with American Chemical Society to support aspiring scientists from Richmond

Assistant Professor of Chemistry Patrick Barber is bringing new funding and leadership to Earlham College in support of research opportunities for local high school students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

Patrick Barber

Barber was recently selected by the Indiana Local Section of the American Chemical Society’s Project SEED to mentor two Richmond High School students on research that resulted in the development of a sustainably produced filter for the remediation of arsenic. The project can benefit developing countries where arsenic is more prevalent in drinking water.

“These students haven’t had a research experience before this past summer,” says Barber, an expert in ionic liquids, green chemistry, actinide chemistry and biomass. “Not only are they getting to do a project, but they are getting to understand the process of research.

“We’ve talked about publishing, we’ve talked about how science develops itself, all in the context of the project they worked on,” he says. “Instead of working the typical summer job, this gives them the chance to do a high-level research project, learn what it’s like to be at college, and also do research in the sciences with the hopes of seeing that they can do this.”

Richmond High School students Freya Beinart and Dylan Selby, who were nominated by their school, earned a $2,500 stipend for their role in the eight-week project. Two Earlhamites – Joyce Li ‘20 and Mai Hoang ’20 – also participated in the research with funding from Eli Lilly and Company and Earlham’s Matthews Student-Faculty Research Fund in Physics/Biological Sciences.

‘This has spiked my interest in science’

“I was able to take the skills I learned in high school and incorporate them into an actual real-life research environment,” Selby says. “I also was able to gain some knowledge that will be useful to me in college and it really give me that jumpstart ahead of my peers.”

“I did this because of my interest in science,” Beinart added. “I was excited to do this. This has spiked my interest in science.”

Project SEED, which was established as a national initiative by the ACS 50 years ago is designed to give high school students the opportunity to explore a career in the sciences and be involved in research at industries and universities. Barber is now seeking funding to support future Project SEED initiatives on campus. He hopes to engage the Richmond community further with the idea of local people and businesses supporting local students through these experiences.

“We really appreciate Patrick’s commitment to public service in extending the Project SEED opportunity to high school students in the Richmond Area’’ says Elmer Sanders, program coordinator for the American Chemical Society Indiana Section’s Project SEED program. ‘’Earlham College creates an optimal environment for high school students who may not otherwise have the means to explore an authentic research laboratory.  We look forward to additional professors joining Patrick as mentors and providing this valuable opportunity to Richmond-area high school students.”

Ph.D. prowess

Mentored undergraduate research is a hallmark of an Earlham education. In fact, the College ranks in the top two percent of the nation for the percentage of graduates who go on to earn advanced degrees, including the Ph.D.

Earlham further delivers on its promise of an exceptional liberal arts education through the EPIC initiative, a four-year journey through the liberal arts that integrates the academic major with transformative learning experiences. This includes research, study abroad, internships and leadership development to prepare students exceptionally well for life beyond Earlham.

Earlham also offers The EPIC Advantage — a funded internship, project or research experience that averages $5,000 for all students — a level of support that few other institutions in the country can match.

Earlham will host dozens of students from east-central Indiana for the Innovate WithIN Region 4 competition on April 26, 2021. The competition will give high school students the opportunity to pitch their entrepreneurial ideas to a panel of judges for a chance to advance and compete for $25,000 to turn their ideas into reality. 

“We are thrilled to partner with Innovate WithIN and work with young innovators from our region,” said Gene Hambrick, director of the Earlham Center for Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Creativity. “Opportunities for students to grow their entrepreneurial mindset are plentiful at Earlham, making us an ideal institution to host this competition and support college-bound students who would benefit from what we offer.”

Two scholarship opportunities will also be available to participants. Competition participants who apply to Earlham and are admitted will be offered a $3,000 annual tuition scholarship. These participants are also eligible for the Heartland Region Scholarship, a $2,000 annual scholarship awarded to any admitted student living within 150 miles of campus.

Entrepreneurship, and especially social entrepreneurship, is thriving at Earlham. The CEIC supports annual entrepreneurship competitions for Earlham students to develop ideas that have the potential to answer some of the world’s biggest challenges. Earlham students also regularly compete for the Hult Prize, the world’s largest student entrepreneurship competition for the social good. In 2016, a team of Earlham students was awarded the $1 million grand prize for an innovative transportation solution in Africa.

The CEIC is currently expanding their support to encourage creativity and innovative thinking in other areas of campus life. In partnership with several academic departments on campus, the CEIC is supporting the development of a student clubs to compete in a cappella, ethical debate, and creative writing intercollegiate competitions.  

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Brian Zimmerman
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