When I learned that North Carolina State University had a scientist as our Chancellor I made it my personal goal to tell his middle school story. Finally, after a year of conducting Before They Were Scientists interviews, I had my chance. I recently sat down with Chancellor Randy Woodson in his office overlooking the iconic NCSU Bell Tower. He started our conversation by opening a three-ring-binder and flipping through the exhaustive list of questions I had sent the week before to help him prepare, “I went through all the questions and I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m […]
I have never poisoned anyone. I recently learned that if I were to try, I would be very bad at it. The hemlock I thought was poisonous turns out to just have an unfortunate common name. And rather than brewing up a batch of tainted tonic, I would apparently make my intended victim an aromatic cup of tea loaded in Vitamin C.
While hiking around the Appalachians this past weekend, I spied tons of hemlock trees. “What a great post for October and Halloween… Hemlock!” I thought and pulled out my sketchbook.
I recently sat down with evolutionary biologist Dr. Doug Emlen when he was in town to give a seminar at NC State. We met at the Hunt Library, and after testing out a few of their famous chairs, we settled in for an interview that took us around the world. Read on to learn how Doug spent the first six months of sixth grade in Kenya with his dad studying birds, got singled out in science class and learned early on in his academic career that he would never be Indiana Jones.
Lea: We’re thinking about middle school — what’s […]
This past week I noticed something other than Brussels sprouts in my garden — a beautiful garden spider!
I did what any curious entomologist and gardener would do… I got as close as I could and took a picture and watched in amazement as she sat and waited surrounded by meals in little to-go containers of silk in her web. A week later I stopped by to say my daily greeting to her and noticed she was gone, her web reduced to a single strand connecting my rosemary to my tarragon. And then something moved out of the corner of my […]
To celebrate, we here at Student’s Discover, and especially me the resident paleontologist, want to give a quick update on the incredible results that middle school kids have already made on the Shark Teeth Forensics project through the Paleontology and Geology lab at the Nature Research Center, NC Museum of Natural Sciences.
First, I need to give a huge “Wow, I’m impressed” to the three Kenan Fellows teachers working on this project (Kimberly, Kerrie, Juliana) because they’ve transformed their middle school classrooms into real deal research teams. And second, I need to shout […]
How many plant, mammal or invertebrate species live in the New York Botanical Garden? While it seems like there should be a straightforward answer – it is a well-known, carefully maintained and studied garden, after all – the truth is, nobody really knows. Along with the plants and animals that are deliberately planted, maintained and tracked, there are a slew of other organisms, including other plants, insects, fungi, mammals and microbes that might take up residence without being noticed, even in such a well-visited garden.
To try to tackle this question, more than 400 Macaulay Honors College students and […]
Dr. Jonathan Bujak (on the right in the photo above) had a reputation for causing trouble, one that started on his first day of school. Read on to learn how doing a little better in chemistry helped him survive the 1960s, how chance played a very special role in his life, and how finding a fern in an Arctic ocean sediment core completely changed the trajectory of his career.
Lea: How about you tell me a little bit about where you were in middle school between the ages of 10 and 14?
Jonathan: I was in a town called Blackpool, a […]
Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire, burn; and cauldron, bubble.
Shakespeare’s witches open Macbeth by tossing a toad into their cauldron, along with parts of snakes, newts, bats and other dejected, unfortunate creatures. Why such a bad rap? After all, people LOVE frogs – they turn into princes and are considered quite lucky by some cultures. But toads? Feared, reviled. What’s the big difference?
Toads (like the American toad, Bufo americanus, pictured above) tend to live in drier environments than frogs. In the frog’s aquatic environment, escape is just a hop away. For toads, though, warts are the key to survival. The […]
Members of the Students Discover team recently visited the Nation’s Capital to present at the National Center for Science and Civic Engagement (NCSCE) Washington Symposium. This conference highlighted university, college, and community programs that are incorporating STEM education into real world applications. We were invited to speak about Students Discover and shared our experiences passionately. As part of this conference, we also met with Representative David Price of North Carolina’s 4th district to talk about our work and discuss the successes of the Students Discover program to date.
Liz Baird, Director of Education at the North […]
Interviewing Anne Madden was both enlightening and entertaining, I’ve never before wished that a recorder would break so I could repeat an interview — it was that much fun. Anne is a postdoctoral researcher — an early career scientist — and yet her life experiences and work in industry prior to graduate school have given her a very nuanced and intriguing perspective on science. Read on to learn about how her clinically diagnosed phobia of middle school did not stop her from achieving academic success, how the artist and the scientist are almost indistinguishable, and how high heels and […]
When contemplating all the picky eaters of the world, I bet ants probably aren’t the first organisms that come to your mind. And yet ants and their food preferences are exactly what post-doctoral researchers Amy Savage and Clint Penick set out to study in New York City. Next time you’re in a big city like New York, take a break from looking up at the skyscrapers and look down at the ground. You’ll see what city ants encounter on a daily basis — an abundance of human food scraps: bits of hot dogs, chunks of pizza crust, candy […]
**This is a guest post written by NC State undergraduate, Ryan Pileski. Ryan collaborated with Lea Shell to adapt the Ant Picnic lesson plan, an investigation of ant diet, nutrition and diversity, for implementation at a summer camp serving students with social disorders. Their goal was to modify the lesson plan to allow success for students with attention issues and social concerns in a summer camp scenario.**
Julie Hecht began our interview by admitting she was nervous because, to her, middle school was horribly awkward. I assured her that she would never have to go back, but just had to share a few memories with me. Our interview, punctuated by lots of laughter, reinforced that even if you’re not into science as a middle school student, it doesn’t mean that you won’t end up a scientist. Learn how she eventually found her way into researching human’s best friend after being obsessed with Archie Comics, her dead end (pun intended, wait for it) career as a thespian, […]
Carnivorous plants have turned the tables on food webs. Rather than insects munching on plants, these plants chow down on insects.
The “traps” of yellow pitcher plants (Sarracenia flava) – one of several carnivorous plant species native to the Southeast — are actually modified leaves. The flap (or operculum) prevents rain from entering the pitcher. The opening to the pitcher lures insects with nectar, but any bug that reaps the sweet reward will find a very slippery surface. Plop!! There it goes into the digestive fluids at the bottom of the trap.
In North Carolina, the yellow pitcher plant can be found […]