News: News Archives
AAAS Students Form Bonds of Science and Friendship in South Korea
Jeffrey Chang had no big plans for the summer. He was graduating from high school with a stellar record in science studies, and he was getting ready for MIT in the fall. When he was asked to join a small AAAS-sponsored delegation to South Korea, he accepted the invitation not knowing quite what to expect.
But when Chang returned from the two-week International Science and Engineering Camp last month, he was inspired by what he'd experienced. Far more than an interesting distraction, more than another success to list on his résumé, the camp at Pohang University of Science and Technology had given him a global perspective and global connections that he'd never had before.
"It was definitely a new experience," says Chang, 18, of Glenview, Ill. "I'd never met students from all these countries before. I didn't expect everyone to be unfriendly, but everyone was so nice and the students bonded so quickly.....The common bond we had was science and engineering. And that shows that no matter where you come from, a lot of people have the same interests."
U.S. participation in the International Science and Engineering Camp was organized by AAAS's International Office, in consultation with the Education and Human Resources staff. The U.S. delegation to the International Science and Engineering Camp was selected by the American Junior Academy of Science, a group long affiliated with AAAS. Joan Messer, director of the Junior Academy, led the four-student group on a visit from 25 July through 9 August that included lectures, lab-based research, tours of South Korean science and engineering centers and cultural events.
The camp was attended by about 80 students and teachers from South Korea, Great Britain, China, Japan, New Zealand, Israel and the United States. At the camp, the students joined teams focusing on Chemistry; Mechanical Engineering; Industrial Engineering; Environmental Science & Engineering; Molecular & Life Sciences; Electrical & Computer Engineering; Physics; and Chemical Engineering.
It was hosted by Pohang University of Science and Technology and the Korea Science Foundation, and sponsored by the South Korean Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Education and Human Resources, and the Korean National Commission for UNESCO. The American delegation also received funding for the trip from the National Science Foundation and the Korea-U.S. Science Cooperation Center.
"AAAS is grateful to the hosting organizations and other sponsors for ensuring that these students received a cross-cultural experience at a leading Korean science and technology research university," said Shere Abbott, AAAS's chief international officer. "We look forward to working together on other efforts to continue enhancing scientific cooperation between the U.S. and Korea."
Each of the four U.S. students was a member of the Junior Academy, and each had significant research experience and accomplishments, spending two to three years on their projects.
Chang, for example, was a prize-winning student at Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy; while doing research under a mentor at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, he had contributed to the analysis of the 2003 space shuttle Columbia disaster. He is now a freshman at MIT, planning to study electrical engineering and computer science. Another student, 18-year-old Douglas Lavanture of Bristol, Ind., had done research on methanol fuel cells that won him top awards at science fairs; he is now a freshman at Princeton. The other two students in the U.S. delegation were Lanay Tierney of Springfield, Mass., and Hannah Park of Norristown, Penn.
The research experience set them apart from their peers in South Korea, said Messer, a biology instructor at Jones Junior College in Mississippi. Other nations may provide more encouragement for students below the elite tier to enter science and engineering fields, Messer noted, and Asian students tend to score higher on tests. But "they could not gain access to research labs or easily acquire advice on research matters," she noted. "Students are not encouraged to conduct research in association with a college or university."
And all of the countries have a common problem in science education. "Teachers in the U.S. and abroad are not trained in how to encourage creativity that is necessary to pursue an active research project," Messer said. "This should be addressed in undergraduate curriculum programs in education worldwide."
Messer and the students stressed that the science camp was not competitive.
"The kids, especially the Korean kids I met, take a much more rigid approach," said Lavanture, who concentrated on physics at the camp. "They knew more of the math behind everything and they could pull these formulas off the top of their heads…Western kids are more into theoretical physics. We're encouraged to free-think a little more.
"But it was neat. We were all able to throw in our take on different ideas. And coming from different backgrounds, we were able to approach them from different angles."
Of course, said Chang, it wasn't as if they spent all their time talking about study and work. "I learned about so much more than science and engineering," he said. "A lot of times when we were hanging out and talking, we wouldn't be talking about science and engineering—we'd be talking about politics….I feel like I'm a lot more globally aware now."
The American Junior Academy of Science operates under the umbrella of the National Association of Academies of Science, which grew out of a AAAS committee that was appointed in 1927. Each year, about 150 high school students who are engaged in research are selected for membership in the Junior Academy, often based on statewide research competitions. The organization holds its annual meeting in conjunction with the AAAS annual meeting, giving the students an opportunity to meet and interact with some of the nation's top scientists, including Nobel Prize winners.
7 September 2004