ETHS students pair with Northwestern graduate students to explore science, engineering

Tyler Pager, Breaking News Editor

Thirty Evanston Township High School students spent Tuesday at Northwestern shadowing more than 20 NU graduate students, exploring science and engineering outside of the classroom.

Kristen Perkins, the NU/ETHS partnership coordinator, said the day gave the high school students the opportunity to see science research firsthand.

“They got to shadow with them doing whatever it is that the student does during the day, so working in the lab, doing computational research, sometimes going to classes with them, going to lab meetings, things like that,” Perkins said.

Perkins said NU hosted two similar events last year, but both on a smaller scale. The Science and Engineering Shadow Day on Tuesday was the first time the program was open to all ETHS students. She said there was a “tremendous amount” of interest, with the spots filling up within 24 hours of the registration form going live.

Nick Thornburg, a third-year graduate student, led students on a tour and said they were interested to see the infrastructure of the different labs.

“For their sake, it was interesting to see chemistry right in front of their eyes,” he said. “For the most part, these guys have mostly seen science on a chalkboard. I think it was really exciting for them to really get a good visual.”

Perkins said she tried her best to pair ETHS students with graduate students who were studying topics they were interested in.

Kate Monte’s stepson, a freshman at ETHS, attended the shadow day.

Monte said her stepson said the trip made attending a prestigious university more realistic, which she said really impressed her.

“I really don’t expect him to be thinking about college as a first semester freshman in high school,” she said. “But he’s extremely interested in science and engineering and he’s done a couple of trips to the STEM lab with his Boy Scout troop. So it wasn’t his first time, but he seemed to have felt that this was the most rewarding.”

Saoirse McSharry, a second-year graduate student, was paired with an ETHS freshman for the morning. She said she gave him a tour of Silverman Hall and Pancoe Hall and then took him to the lab she works in. McSharry said she explained her research to him and also took him to some of her friends’ labs that matched with his other interests.

“I thought it was a wonderful opportunity for both of us,” she said. “I’ve always been interested in doing high school mentorship, so it was a great experience for me. And this kid was like the most brilliant person I’ve met in my life.”

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