Laura Ware for SFI

From September 2010 to May 2011, SFI Omidyar fellows James O'Dwyer and Jeremy Van Cleve and SFI Postdoctoral Fellow Bryan Daniels mentored four Santa Fe-area high-school students: Andres Gonzalez, Krishan Bhakta, Arlo Barnes, and Noah Kwicklis.

The students attend the MASTERS Program, a new Santa Fe charter school with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and math education.

During the fall semester, three students interacted individually with their mentors: Andres focused on the analysis of biodiversity in riverine systems with James, Arlo worked with Jeremy on analyzing species and genetic diversity using the statistical package R, and Krishan worked with Bryan on programming using the NetLogo modeling environment. Noah joined the program in the spring semester.

In the spring, all four students and their mentors worked as a group on a scientifically-based community service project. The students developed connections with state and local managers and professionals and then analyzed various datasets relevant to local water quality and availability, with a particular focus on the impact of water usage on the levels of contamination in Santa Fe city wells. In order to carry out their analysis, the students developed skills in the statistical package R. They presented their findings to their high-school peers at the end of the semester.

Overall, the students developed technical capability in scientific data analysis, in combination with the more intangible but equally important skills of working in a team on a research project and reaching out to members of the community, says James. Over the period of the mentorship all four students became more confident in applying these skills, and all are expressing a strong interest in continuing scientific studies and research, he says. 

The mentoring program will continue from September 2011, with the aim of expanding the program to include additional students.

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