Hopkins Adds Intensive Research Program to Science Curriculum
Next year, Hopkins will introduce an authentic research program in science to the curriculum. This program, called HARPS (Hopkins Authentic Research Program in Science), will provide students with the opportunity to design and perform their very own research project. The program will also teach students the core techniques of experimentation and instruction on how to read and write scientific literature.
The new course, which has been in the works since 2003, will be a one-credit full-year curriculum that features a ½ credit research position during the following summer. For the 2016-2017 year, it will be only open to the Class of 2018. The Science Department plans to transform a room in the Malone Science Center into a modern biochemistry laboratory to supplement the needs of the course. “It will be equipped with new biotechnology equipment such as incubators and ways to run DNA, protein gels, and culture cells, allowing us to do labs that would not have been possible before,” explained Jennifer Stauffer, science teacher and core member of the project. The Science Department also plans on hiring a new faculty member, preferably with recent experience in research, to oversee the program as a whole.
Class time will be dedicated to using this new equipment to foster the development of skills used in the scientific research process. According to Phillip Stewart, Science Department Chair and Physics teacher, students will complete labs created by the science faculty to learn different research techniques, such as replicating DNA or learning how to use optical instruments to guide laser light. In addition, students will learn how to read, write, and critique scientific journals and articles, allowing them to understand how to communicate results. During the second semester, students will design and run their own individual experiment on campus and present their results to the class for critique.
“We hope the class feels like a group of student-scientists helping each other and supporting one another’s projects in a safe environment with teachers serving as guides, mentors, and even partners in science,” Stewart explained.
A second facet to the course is the prospect of continuing work done at Hopkins outside of the classroom. Throughout the year, students will be asked to find laboratories in the area that align with their interests, hoping to find one where they can make a significant contribution. Teachers and mentors involved in the program will help students find somewhere to work. “We know lots of Hopkins students work in labs over the summer, but many times they are just lucky enough to know someone who can get them in,” added Stewart. “I think what excites me most about the program is giving students who may not have the access to laboratories or connections with people who run labs a chance to get real experience working side-by-side with professional scientists.”
Though the Science Department wants to make this program available to many students, there is an extensive application process in anticipation of a high level of interest. “We need to make sure those who take the course is committed to science and will be a good fit with this program,” explained Stauffer.
The Science Department encourages anyone interested in this intensive program to start exploring the details of this transformative new Hopkins course for future participation.