Local Kids Get Real-World Science Training at New College of Florida

This month, New College is helping two dozen middle and high school students prepare for careers in medicine and science with a program that takes them out on Sarasota Bay and into the College’s marine biology labs.
It’s the 15th year of PUSH/SUCCESS, a program for students from demographics typically under-represented in science. Students arrive on June 6 for two weeks of intensive science training, from collecting samples to running experiments to preparing reports and presentations on their work.

Dr. Sandra Gilchrist, professor of biology at New College, works with middle school students at the Pritzker Marine Biology Research Center at this year's PUSH/SUCCESS program.
Dr. Sandra Gilchrist, professor of biology at New College, works with middle school students at the Pritzker Marine Biology Research Center at this year’s PUSH/SUCCESS program.

Among the activities:

  • Collect water and plankton samples from the New College research boat
  • Use microscopes to study the effects of oils and toxins on shrimp and sea urchins
  • Run experiments on DNA, bioluminescence, photosynthesis, and pollutants
  • Learn basics of electronic circuits and computer coding
  • Program and test submersible robots in the New College pool
  • Try scuba diving under close supervision in the New College pool

Along the way, program director Dr. Sandra Gilchrist, professor of biology, and assistants will teach students about the scientific method, graphing and writing lab reports. They also will create PowerPoint presentations and podcasts about their research.
Students also will meet with scientists working in our community. Sarasota physician Dr. Lisa Merritt, an advocate for better healthcare access for under-served communities, will discuss careers in medicine. SNN meteorologist Marco La Manno will teach students about the science of weather and how he produces forecasts.
High school students will participate in programs on leadership, and the program includes a workshop for students’ parents on planning for college.
The program concludes with students’ presentation of projects and a graduation ceremony June 17.
PUSH (Preparing Unique Students for Healthcare careers) is for students in grades 9 through 11. SUCCESS (Students United to Create Culturally and Educationally Successful Situations) is for students in grades 6 through 8. Both programs focus not on typical, not gifted, students. Most students receive free or reduced-price lunch at their schools.