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SHS students experience real life research, thanks to Northwest summer intern program

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Sunnyside High School students Gregg Burbidge, Elias Wise and Iris Ruiz are recent participants in a summer internship program, which put them in contact with the practical application of scientific research, thanks to a Pacific Northwest National Laboratory apprenticeship program.

Investigating the architectural intregity of the buildings on the 60-year-old Hanford Reservation occupied Elias Wise's time for eight weeks last summer.

The Sunnyside High School senior worked along side a team of accredited scientists, who are working to refine the structural qualities of the buildings on the nation's nuclear reservation.

While Wise was busy taking precise measurements of the foundations and corners of the Hanford buildings, Sunnyside High School junior Iris Ruiz was doing research into pollution prevention with an eye on developing a plan for reducing waste at her high school.

Nearby, fellow Sunnyside High School junior Gregg Burbidge was working with professional graphic designers and web designers, who put all of the research data into a readable form for the scientists.

All three youths took part in the Student Research Apprenticeship Program (SRAP), a U.S. Department of Energy-funded project designed to provide research-based education for members of under represented ethnic groups.

According to Kathy Feaster of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which oversees the apprenticeship program, SRAP takes high school students into the world of scientific research for a few weeks every summer to give them on hands-on science and engineering experience.

While engaged in their research projects, the students earn a stipend of nearly $315 a week as part of their internship experience, Feaster said. The students are given the opportunity to continue their research, working with a mentor throughout the summer. In some cases the mentor and student continue their research during the school year, she said.

Students are allowed more than one summer internship with the program, which also receives the support of the MESA (Math, Engineering Science Achievement) program, said Ruben Carrera, the Sunnyside School District executive director of school and resources.

Carrera said the Sunnyside School District has participated in the SRAP and MESA project for the past four years.

Carrera said the district is currently working with Laura Cook of the Washington State University-Tri-Cities campus to enhance three careers paths at Sunnyside High School. In order to give SHS students more exposure to math and science-based careers, Cook is working with the high school nursing, chemistry and biology departments, Carrera explained. Students in those programs are encouraged to take advantage of the internships, he said.

The SRAP internship program gives students an opportunity to apply their classroom knowledge to the real world, under the direction of professionals in those fields, Carrera said.

Ruiz hopes to bring her summer experience into a practical application at SHS.

While researching ways to reduce garbage by recycling waste, Ruiz saw an opportunity to implement a pollution prevention plan at her school. She now plans to reapply for another summer internship so she can create a workable plan for her prevention plan at SHS.

"I just want to put into action what I've learned," she said.

. Julia Hart can be contacted at

(509) 837-4500, or you can e-mail her at jhart@eaglenewspapers.com

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