High-school scientists partner with Argonne National Laboratory

High School scientists partner with Argonne National Laboratory

One student has a supplier downtown. Two other students are traveling all the way to a small Wisconsin farm for their contribution. What are these students searching so desperately to find? These eight Lab third- and fourth-year students have been working hard to source bees from around Chicago and beyond for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with the Argonne National Laboratory. With guidance from teachers Diane Nead, Matthew Martino, and Zachary Hund, the students are participating in an ambitious project to use world-class technology to investigate the relationship between bees and air quality.

Argonne National Laboratory

Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Energy

Like many projects around campus, this partnership with Argonne is an example of Lab students responding to challenges with creativity. With the Summer Science Link program suspended during the pandemic, research-hungry students had to find new opportunities, which led them to the Argonne’s Exemplary Student Research Program. After being accepted into the program, they began receiving mentorship from Professor Tony Lanzirotti and Professor Matt Newville of the University of Chicago Geo Soil Environmental Center for Advanced Radiation Sources. The two scientists, Nead said, “have been so kind to adopt our group” and help them prepare for the bee project.

In February or March, the students will get the chance to visit Argonne’s historic campus. From its origins in the days of the Manhattan Project to its cutting-edge research on quantum computing, Argonne attracts the best and the brightest minds from all over the world—it’s no surprise that Lab students will soon be accessing equipment used by multiple Nobel Prize laureates. Once their bee samples have been collected and frozen, the Lab team will analyze them with the Advanced Photon Source, a high-brilliance synchrotron x-ray source that uses particle accelerators to move electrons at close to light speed. The APS is basically “the world’s brightest X-ray,” explains Hund. Using this technology, the team will examine their bees for indicators of air pollution, comparing bees from Lab’s own apiary to samples collected from different regions. The researchers hope to discover how pollutants affect air quality and local fauna.

In true Lab fashion, the students don’t seem nervous about using the scientific community’s most powerful resources before many of them are old enough to vote. This research project is only one in many they plan on undertaking in the future. For these budding scientists, research truly is the bee’s knees.

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