February 10, 2017
While many of her classmates at Baltimore City's Western High School are hanging out with friends or participating in clubs after school, Devyn Anderson is in a materials science laboratory on Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus, working to develop a sensor that can detect proteins associated with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, otherwise known as MRSA.
"I'm handling antibodies and polymers and equipment like thermal evaporators and probe stations, and it is a big challenge," she says. "But it's also pretty exciting."
A 16-year-old junior, Anderson is part of Johns Hopkins' Women in Science and Engineering program, which brings female high school students to campus to work in engineering and science laboratories, where they conduct real research under the guidance of faculty and graduate student mentors.
This fall and winter, the WISE program welcomed three students from Western High School, an all-girls public high school in Baltimore City; and 11 from Garrison Forest School, an all-girls independent school in Owings Mills, Maryland, to spend two afternoons a week doing research in areas including chemical engineering, materials science, and computer science. Next month, after the current cohort of students finishes up, a new cohort from the two schools will take their places.
The aim of the program is to encourage girls to pursue education and careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, according to Margaret Hart, from the Center for Educational Outreach, which runs the program.
"WISE provides high school students with a real taste of what being a researcher is like," Hart says. "They learn a lot of skills they will need to be successful in a research lab, but also the skills they need to do anything they want to do—tenacity, attention to detail, curiosity, patience, and most importantly, how to recover from failure."