- August 20, 2019
At Sarasota High School, some students are going beyond the textbooks and the frog dissections typically connected to science classes.
They’re doing such things as stem cell research, and studying antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and engineering products to make life easier. They’re conducting research trials and experiments, winning awards and traveling all over the country to show off what they’re doing, all thanks to the MaST program.
That’s the Math, Science and Technical Research Institute, a magnet program that’s been at the high school since 1995. Students start in their freshman year of high school, where they learn everything about the scientific process.
“The real scientific process,” joked one of the program’s two teachers, Andy Harshman. Then, each year after that, they identify and conduct year-long research projects under the guidance of a mentor.
“We don’t put any constraints on subjects,” Harshman said.
Once the projects are complete, students present their findings at numerous conferences and contests around the state, and an annual senior symposium at the high school.
Senior Kathryn Richards will present her work at the symposium. Her project built on work she did in her junior year, and tested the effects of folic acid, or vitamin B9, on the regeneration of stem cells.
“I wanted to find a way to increase the rate at which the stem cells generate to use in the medical field,” she said, adding this kind of research can help burn victims.
Richards will be attending the University of South Florida next year to study to be a pediatric nurse, and she credits the program with making her a more competitive applicant.
Logan Track, also a senior, studied the impact of ocean acidification to sea urchin development. Urchins act as a base organism, Track said, and can predict what will happen to other organisms in the future.
“I love it,” he said of the program. “It definitely is a deal breaker for college applications.”
Track will attend the University of Florida on a pre-med track.
And Hunter Burgin, a junior, tested beta inhibitors that stop enzymes in bacteria from breaking down antibiotics, something that’s important in the medical field, he said. Burgin also hopes to study pre-med in college.
The three students are some of the 120 in the program, a number that’s expected to top 150 next year.
“They are kind of awesome,” said their other teacher, Courtney Coppola.
The public is invited to a symposium to hear seniors present their research projects at 6 p.m. April 25 in the auditorium at Sarasota High School, 2155 Bahia Vista St., Sarasota.