Why the ACS Summer Research Fellowship Matters

Bringing Real Science to Students

This is my second year participating in ACS Summer Research Fellowships. Prior to my research at Duquesne University in Dr. Jennifer Aitken’s lab, I had not had the opportunity to participate in challenging hands-on scientific investigation for over a decade.

My writing skills, fundamental understanding of the scientific process, and passion for unraveling nature had become tailored to fit delivery to a classroom of teenagers. Last summer’s research showed me how I had lost some of my rigor, honesty, and passion.

Currently, I am in discussions with a second professor to improve the environmental chemistry component of my course. He has offered the use of his mass spectrometers for quantitative analysis.

I had stopped looking for the next big idea that I could incorporate into my lectures and labs, and I had instead fallen into a pattern of reusing methods that I considered tried and true. That, upon reflection, was unfair to my students, especially the scientifically gifted ones.

After participating in this program I am eager to pursue the unique relationships that I have formed with the professors at Duquesne that will bring honest, rigorous, and passionate scientific research into my classroom.

Two particular projects come to mind. Last year, Dr. Aitken invited me to add an outreach component to her grant for a new electron microscope. If the grant is awarded, it will provide my classroom with an online connection to equipment located here at the university. We will be able to do X-ray analysis of samples and view micrographs of a variety of materials.

This is particularly relevant to my students. They live in close proximity to Neville Island, an industrial site that is responsible for a significant amount of Allegheny County’s total pollution. This area has been the topic of several major university studies and affects the long term health of the community I work in.

Both of these projects and the relationships I have formed would not have been possible without the ACS’s generous program. The program has allowed me to pursue a very specific area of study, has challenged me to apply the fundamentals of my education, and has forged relationships with academia that brings real science to my students.

– Josh Lucas

Josh Lucas in the lab with Jin Lei Yao
Summer Research Fellow Josh Lucas (right) with Jin Lei Yao at Duquesne University.