Friday, June 3, 2016
New student, teacher summer program researchers named
Spring Branch ISD’s partnership with Chevron and the JASON Learning program was front and center on May 25th as district teacher and student Argonauts past and present told how this science-based experience had changed young lives.
The evening gathering in the Board Room of the Wayne F. Schaper Sr. Leadership was the 2016 JASON/Chevron Community Event. “An Evening of STEM” included the official naming of new teacher and student research Argonauts in SBISD – a junior, Jordan Meza, and biology and physics teacher, Nayan Patel, both of Stratford High School.
Added highlights during the program included an inspiring address to students and families by Texas Heart Institute biomedical engineer Dr. Andi Gobin, and special event remarks by Joni Baird, Chevron’s government and public affairs manager. A video message from SBISD Superintendent Scott Muri, Ed.D., was presented.
SBISD’s partnership with Chevron and JASON began in 2011 when Baird shared an opportunity with former Superintendent Duncan Klussmann to add the STEM-based JASON Learning curriculum to the district’s larger science curriculum.
In the past four years, Chevron has given an estimated $700,000 to the district for a variety of related initiatives, including teacher trainings at both district and national levels, JASON National Conference educator travel and experiences, related online curriculum for all grades, school and community visits by high-level researchers, and many JASON National Argonaut summer experiences for students and teachers.
Dr. Andi Gobin with the Texas Heart Institute spoke to students and families about the importance of passion in her youth, in college, and then as a medical researcher and engineer. Her career path was not straight forward. She followed her interests.
She currently works as assistant director with the Organ Repair and Regeneration Research Laboratories in the Regenerative Medicine Research Department at the Houston-based institute.
Dr. Gobin earned her doctorate from Rice University, and has lived and studied in Connecticut, New York and Texas. She has obtained more than $8 million in both federal and nonprofit research awards. Her main research focuses on regenerating heart tissue through the use of decellularization, a biomedical engineering process.
Her interest and passion in rebuilding hearts was sparked by her work at Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center. “I worked in rooms next to patient rooms, and it was an experience that changed my life,” Dr. Gobin said.
Dr. Gobin described her own bumpy path from youth to finding the “right” college and career mentors for her. She described herself as an engineer first and a scientist second. “I like to pick things apart and then see how they work,” she said.
Her advice to others reflects her journey. “Find passion in what you do,” she says. “Find your passion in what you do every day, and have fun with it.”
During the school day, Dr. Gobin spoke with students at both Spring Woods middle and high schools, Memorial high school and Westchester Academy for International Studies. JASON host researchers like her have spoken to thousands of district students in recent years.
Speakers in SBISD schools have included hurricane researcher Shirley Murillo and climatologist Diane Stanitski, both of whom work with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA); Tim Samaras, a National Geographic severe storms researcher; and Tony Castilleja Jr., a Boeing mechanical engineer.
In 2013, Tim Samaras was killed while recording and documenting the destructive El Reno, Okla., tornado.
After Dr. Gobin’s talk, Chevron’s Joni Baird presented certificates of appreciation to SBISD directors and Chevron’s Human Energy Award to the school district.
District Science Director Donald Burken and Ro Luecken, who is district JASON Argonaut coordinator, returned special honors, presenting Baird with a plant as a special gift.
“You started a seed with us, and that seed has impacted 10,000 students across our district and 200 or more teachers,” Burken said.
Burken and Luecken then presented “Limitless Curiosity” recognition certificates to SBISD students who have served as summertime researchers with the program.
“The JASON National Argonaut experience has given our students and teachers an opportunity to collaborate on hands-on fieldwork alongside researchers working in a variety of science fields,” Luecken said.
“The Limitless Curiosity of these students and teachers, and their personal desire to never stop learning and stop growing, is a true representation of our district’s core values. They have tenaciously embraced the challenge of leaving familiar territory to explore their future potential in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math,” she also said.
Four student Argonauts and teacher Jessica Licarione talked about what JASON’s summer research trips meant to them. To a student, they all said that the trips and meeting real, working scientists in the field had inspired them tremendously.
For Fredy Corrales, who has just graduated from Northbrook High with scholarships to Texas A&M University, research on the Aegean Sea opened his eyes to the world past Landrum Middle School.
“For me, I was able to do a lot of firsts – flying in planes, staying in hotels, even a ride in a limousine. I had a blast, and not just on the ship,” he says.
Allie Eggert, a Memorial High co-valedictorian who will study at Rice University, thanked the district and Chevron for making her trip feel like she was at home.
“I learned during my trip that I really did want to go into science, Soak everything in, you will enjoy it,” she told this year’s student Argonaut and teacher.
Chase Gonsoulin, who traveled to the Caribbean in 2013, said that he met so many “new, intelligent, amazing people” he is now inspired to pursue science. Blondine Delva said she was terrified of leaving home last summer for the Bahamas, but she changed her mind by doing hands-on research.
“I loved the chances to learn more,” she said. “Eleuthera (The Bahamas) taught me that we can’t just learn things in a book, but we need to do things to really learn, or understand,” she said.
Stratford High’s Jordan Meza and Nayan Patel head to Camp Alice Cove in Prince William Sound in Alaska this August. They’ll join a sea otter research and data collection project.
“I’m pretty excited,” said Jordan, a junior. “Alaska should be real great. I’ve been camping so I have something of an idea about what it’s like. I want to experience everything possible, and I can’t not learn with this kind of an experience,” he said.
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