Rochester Prep students get interactive research experience with RIT faculty through annual capstone program

For the first time, the K-12 University Center at Rochester Institute of Technology is facilitating the Rochester Prep-RIT Capstone program.

Brit Milazzo

Rochester Prep High School seniors Leila Aden, Zacchaeus Greene, Chanei Nixon and Wade Shaw work with Dr. Andre Hudson and Dr. Renata Miranda from RIT’s College of Science to collect bacteria samples from the environment, and learn if it is resistant or not to commonly used antibiotics.

For the first time, the K-12 University Center at Rochester Institute of Technology is facilitating the Rochester Prep-RIT Capstone program. It annually allows juniors and seniors from the Rochester-based charter school the opportunity to work with university faculty members and participate in hands-on research in a variety of STEM disciplines in science, technology, engineering and math.

Throughout the fall, students regularly gather into four groups to work alongside professors, teaching assistants and graduate assistants on various interactive research projects that includes chemistry, energy sustainability, the evolution of bacteria, mapping DNA and more.

According to RIT’s Division of Diversity and Inclusion, interested and eligible students select a subject area to pursue on RIT’s campus. The process starts the spring of their junior year. By the time of their senior year, the students then attend a weekly class working with a professor on a specifically designed research project that simulates work in a college course. This year, 16 students are participating.

“The capstone experience offers PRHS students a unique opportunity to work with faculty on college-level course work,” Kids on Campus Director Kraig Farrell said. “This, in turn, better prepares them for the all-important transition from high school. Student are working hand-in-hand with RIT students, while also making connections with faculty members.”

Farrell added that this is also a chance to highlight the “amazing opportunities and resources” RIT has to offer, by linking coursework to potential careers.

RIT’s WISE – Women in Science – and three faculty members from the Colleges of Engineering, Liberal Arts and Science are also part of the capstone. To learn more about capstone experiences, and the faculty and programs involved, visit this link: Capstone classes

A partnership among RIT and Rochester Prep dates back June 27, 2013, before the high school opened. Board of trustee member Ron Zarrella had a vision to create comprehensive and sustainable relationships for students from the school with the university and all it has to offer. This summer, the K-12 University Center was tasked with facilitating that relationship.

Farrell said K-12 is responsible for handling logistics of the program with Rochester Prep and planning other opportunities for students, such as workshops on communication and public speaking before a capstone showcase in February. The “holistic approach,” he added, is aimed at providing students with other skills beyond STEM research.


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