Brown Advocate Program Pilots in 2017-18, Mentors 5 High School Students to Participate in State and Local Science Fairs

Photo of students presenting at the Rhode Island science fair

Each year, middle and high school students throughout the country present projects at high school, regional, and  state science fairs. The projects allow students an opportunity to explore science and engineering through the lenses of research and design, with projects ranging from wind turbines, to human perception and satisfaction surveys, to methods of cleaning polluted water. State winners go on to the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair (ISEF), which continues to be a formative experience for many of the nation's top scientists and engineers.

 What is the Advocate Program?

Access to necessary resources and mentorship for completing projects can be a barrier for some students in completing science and engineering fair projects. The Advocate Grant Program through Science for Society and the Public seeks to address this by providing funding to approximately 50 advocates throughout the country per year. These advocates may be middle school teachers, high school teachers, or University researchers all dedicated to mentoring underserved students through the science fair process. In 2017, Professor Brenda Rubenstein, Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Brown, received an advocate grant from Science of Society and the Public, establishing the Brown Advocate Program with help from a group of mentors from the local community.

“Participating in well-mentored science research that culminates in a science fair project gives students the crucial opportunity to participate in science outside of the classroom and interact with mentors who could provide them with advice about their future careers and college,” says Prof. Rubenstein. In its pilot year, five students from Providence Schools participated and presented their projects at local high school science fairs, and 4 also participated in the RI Science and Engineering Fair on March 17. Mentors also led Advocate Program college applications, resume, financial aid, and mental health workshops for participating students at Brown one weekend a month.

Astou Diedhiou, a student at Times Squared Academy (a public K-12 charter school in Providence), participated as a 2017-18 mentee, with a Science Fair project titled “Genetic Similarities in a Small African Population” in the Biochemistry category. “What I found most rewarding from the advocate program is that it allowed me the opportunity to conduct an experiment on what I’m interested in,” says Astou, “I would strongly suggest [new advocate members] join the program because it is an amazing learning experience and it helps you gain more connections.” Astou won first place in her category at Times Squared and advanced to the Rhode Island State Science & Engineering Fair.

Future Goals & Ways to Get Involved

The Brown Advocate Program program will run in academic year 2018-19. Key to program success is direct, dynamic mentorship of high school students. The program is always in need of mentors either willing to open up their labs and research groups to high school research projects or to work with students on a regular basis throughout the year-long science fair process. Any faculty member, postdoc, graduate student, or undergraduate interested in serving as a mentor should contact the Department of Chemistry at [email protected].  The program aims to combined Advocate Grant funding with ACS Project SEED funding to fully support student science internships.

2017-18 Mentors:

Brenda Rubenstein, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry

Jasmine Miller, Research Assistant, Department of Psychiatry & Human Behavior

James Krakue, Consultant Engineering, FM Global

Sukurat Olalekan, Clinical Research Assistant, Women & Infants Hospital


2017-18 Mentees:

Fareed Balogun, Classical High School

Love Dahn, Classical High School

Astou Diedhiou, Times Squared Academy

Toyin Ogunleye, Times Squared Academy

Dorbor Tarley, Classical High School

Projects completed were in the categories of Biochemistry, Robotics & Intelligent Machines, and Social & Behavioral Sciences.