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Summer Research Experiences for K-12 Teachers (RET) at WPI

DEPARTMENT(S): 
November 18, 2022

During the summer of 2022, five middle/high school teachers joined five WPI undergraduate, pre-service teachers to conduct six weeks of research as part of WPI’s Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) program. Themed “Engineering for People and the Planet: Research Experiences for Teaching Integrated STEM,” the in-service and pre-service teachers worked in a team with a WPI faculty mentor to research topics such as healthy lives, clean energy, and quality education.

The RET in Engineering program at WPI is funded by the National Science Foundation and supports summer research experiences for middle and high school teachers to foster long-term collaborations between WPI, school districts, and industry partners. The research experiences focus on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for an integrated approach to learning and doing science, math, and engineering through real-world problems that focus on people and the planet.

Working with a WPI faculty member, the teachers gained hands-on experience in WPI research laboratories. They had the opportunity to conduct experiments for their research, from working with DNA cloning and microbial growth to running computer code to predict product performance. As part of the experience, the teachers also participated in Professional Development workshops with the STEM Education Center. These workshops guided teachers to translate their research experience into lesson plans and classroom activities. The teachers will pilot their lesson/activity during the academic year. Participants learned about STEM’s role in addressing global challenges, the engineering problem solving process, and strategies to make learning more equitable and inclusive. Not only did they come away with a research experience they can share with their students, but they have been inspired to bring these types of experiences to their classrooms and empower their students to solve relevant and meaningful real-world problems.

The RET participants formed a cohesive cohort for peer and near-peer mentoring, visited many other WPI labs, and networked with industry partners. Even after departing, they will remain connected to one another through WPI’s STEM Education Center programs, including RET follow-up sessions this academic year.

Applications for the next cohort of middle and high school teachers for Summer 2023 (July 6 – August 16, 2023) will be open soon!

See the culmination of the participants’ research, and learn more about each project’s United Nation Sustainable Development Goal below:

Research Project

Faculty Mentor

In-Service Teacher

Pre-Service Teacher

Genetically Engineering a Plasmid to Develop a Live-Dead Reporter System in Mycolicibacterium smegmatis

Scarlet Shell
(Biology & Biotechnology / BBT)

Rebecca Cooke
(HS Bio, Douglas)

Elizabeth Lemay
(BBT, HS Bio)

Real-time Brain Sensing for Personalized Learning Environments

Erin Solovey
(Computer Science / CS)

Joseph Lima
(MS STEM, Ashland)

Anna Eng
(ME, MS Math)

Waste Not, Want Not: Catalytic Conversion of Food Waste into Renewable Fuel

Mike Timko
(Chemical Engineering / CHE)

Jessica Racine
(HS Bio & Chem, Doherty-Worcester)

Joelis Velez Diaz
(CHE, HS Chem)

Inexpensive Terahertz Technologies for Moisture Sensing

Doug Petkie
(Physics / PH)

Anna Valdez
(MS Math & Science, Duxbury)

Simon Rees
(PH, HS Physics)

Identification, Cataloging, and Comparison of Wild Type Yeasts Found in Various Environments

Eric Young
(Chemical Engineering / CHE)

Callista Perry
(MS Science, Sullivan-Worcester)

Claire Behning
(BBT, HS Bio)