STEM research course makes debut

The+first+students+to+be+informed+of+the+new+Independent+Study%3A+STEM+Research+course+offering+were+members+of+the+Research+Club%2C+which+was+founded+last+year.+Screenshot+by+Karen+Feng.

The first students to be informed of the new Independent Study: STEM Research course offering were members of the Research Club, which was founded last year. Screenshot by Karen Feng.

Karen Feng

The first students to be informed of the new Independent Study: STEM Research course offering were members of the Research Club, which was founded last year. Screenshot by Karen Feng.
The first students to be informed of the new Independent Study: STEM Research course offering were members of the Research Club, which was founded last year. Screenshot by Karen Feng.

MVHS has long boasted a strong Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics program with classes in a variety of fields and many successful science competition participants, including 2011 National Siemens Competition winner Angela Zhang. FUHSD wants to help continue the tradition.
Due to the popularity of science competitions among FUHSD students and the abundance of nationally recognized science research work among both teachers and students, the district has created the Independent Study: STEM Research course to give students the chance to participate in the community of scientific research and scholarship with the support of their high schools. Through funding from the FUHSD Foundation, the new independent study course is being offered at both MVHS and Lynbrook High School this year to help guide students through their scientific research. The class, led at MVHS by AP Biology teacher and Research Club advisor Renee Fallon, is meant to teach students about the research process.
Through daily lessons and seminars early in the year, Fallon teaches students how to create research proposals for competitions like the Synopsys Silicon Valley Science and Technology Competition, which holds championships on March 13. All students in the course are required to submit a project to the Synopsys Competition, which features projects in the fields of science, engineering and product design.
Like most other students enrolled in the course, junior Kelly Hong has never done any research in the past.
“Right now, Fallon told us to just read a lot in order to find ideas for our project. I’m kind of nervous about everything, but I guess I’m excited to actually do a research project,” Hong said. “But right now I’m not really sure about any topic yet, because it’s just the beginning. I think it’s good for helping people who want to start researching; it just gets our feet wet, I guess.”
It wasn’t until the 2011-2012 school year let out for summer vacation that FUHSD’s new Independent Study: STEM Research class was approved. By then, Fallon knew that most students had already planned their schedules for the next school year.
Despite the poor timing, Fallon wanted to move forward with the newly approved course.
“I’m very, very grateful to the [FUHSD] Foundation for funding it, because honestly the state of California wouldn’t have been able to get us a class like this,” Fallon said. “We got a huge opportunity, so we couldn’t say no.”
Because Independent Study: STEM Research was not finalized in time for course selection, Fallon sent an email describing the course to all students on the Research Club mailing list over the summer. Offered and completely filled up at Running of the Bulls, the one-period, 36-student STEM research class was not advertised to the general student population.
“I think it’d be more fair if more students were told about it,” Hong said. “I wasn’t part of Research Club and I didn’t hear about [the course] until the schedule leak on Infinite Campus. I saw that some people had that class so I wanted to add it at Running of the Bulls.”
Although the STEM Research class is at full capacity and space will likely always be limited, Research Club will continue to provide opportunities to students interested in scientific research without the structure of a classroom.
“I’m very thrilled and excited because whatever I do in the research class, I can still bring to Research Club,” Fallon said. “That means the reach for the class is to everyone on campus. Come on over, I’ll be happy to work with you, give you the same tools, the same instructions as everybody else.”
The course currently consists mostly of upperclassmen but will be aimed at freshmen and sophomores in the long-term as a way of exposing the younger generation to STEM research early on.
“I would be interested in joining the STEM class because it would give me background experience for colleges,” freshman Srivathsan Subramanian said. “I haven’t decided on a science field yet, so this would help me make that decision.”
Independent Study: STEM Research will be offered next year as part of the regular course selection.