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Young minds are often capable of rising to remarkably difficult intellectual challenges. We just have to give them the opportunity to surprise us.
Researchers at the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning gave one high school student the chance to do just that. Vishesh Gupta, a senior at BASIS Scottsdale, has been working with professor Matei Georgescu and postdoctoral researcher Scott Krayenhoff for a year now assisting with climate data analysis and proofing.
Gupta has been an asset in the lab, teaching himself multiple new code languages necessary for the research in just a matter of months.
Now his success has inspired a new internship program for high school students at the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. Vishesh has returned this summer to work alongside Georgescu and Krayenhoff at SGSUP in addition to three new BASIS high school students -- Nathaniel, Rei and Usha.
The opportunity to work in an advanced research environment offers something not found in high school classrooms.
“In high school we learn all of these theories but I thought, in class we don’t really have a proper way to apply this knowledge,” said Gupta. “Getting into something like research helps you broaden your scope, now I can apply my knowledge to something that's practical and meaningful in the real world.”
Transitioning from a classroom environment to a workplace setting, such as a research lab, takes away all of safety buffers of a classroom. Interns are expected to keep up and contribute to the research. It has to be a beneficial work relationship for both parties.
“I didn’t really have ample knowledge about the topic itself so there was a massive learning curve, both in terms of my subject knowledge but also in terms of my computer science skills. It was a matter of pushing myself to the point where I can solve these problems, and it’s worked so far,” said Gupta.
Georgescu wants to present other high school students with a similar challenge. Those who rise to the challenge will expand their skill set and workplace confidence, making them more marketable to top universities and employers in the future.
“I want our unit to become ‘the hub’ of high school internships for qualified students who have an interest in gaining STEM education,” Georgescu said.
Over time, Georgescu wants to see the internship program scaled up and expanded to other units across ASU. There are is a broad range of qualified students who are interested in pursuing research with faculty mentors, Georgescu explained. By expanding to other research labs at ASU, students would have the opportunity to explore other STEM fields like physics or computer science.
Such an internship program will help create a knowledge pipeline between local municipalities and ASU.
“I see this as a unique way of serving our community,” Georgescu said. “There is no process for how to do something like this, but we know there is interest. It’s an interesting experiment in that we are creating the process as we speak.”
As the next round of interns join faculty researchers at SGSUP, Georgescu continues to refine the process, improving the program so that it benefits students, faculty and the research.
“Learning from one another is beneficial for all,” Georgescu said.