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Bioengineering professor hopes to transfer knowledge to high school students by training high school teachers

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

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Media Contact: Herb Booth, Office:817-272-7075, Cell:214-546-1082, hbooth@uta.edu

ARLINGTON - Jian Yang wants to take his message about a university education and research to high schools.

He's getting started on that this summer as an Arlington high school chemistry teacher and a few of her students will work in Yang's bioengineering lab at The University of Texas at Arlington.

Samira Usman, the advanced placement chemistry teacher at Martin High School, and a couple of her students have started working in Yang's lab as Yang develops a new education model for introducing college-level fundamentals to high schools. They will be working on Yang's major research concerning drug delivery methods for cancer.

Yang wants to establish an education model called "Academic Representative - High School Teacher Representative" for high school curriculum enhancement. Yang and his doctoral student, Richard Tran, will serve as the Academic Representatives. Usman will serve as High School Teacher Representative. The two representative groups will work together to identify suitable items from research that can be used to improve the current high school curriculum.

The work is part of a $500,000 National Science Foundation Early Career Development (CAREER) grant that has a five-year life. This is the ninth time in five years that a UT Arlington College of Engineering faculty member has received an NSF CAREER grant.

"It's a great way to learn on the university level and take that back to students who didn't have the opportunity to work in the college lab," Yang said. "Samira can relay all she learns in the lab back to high school students. We need to better prepare these students for the rigors of college programs."

Yang said university professors shouldn't be the ones to teach high school students. "They learn better from high school teachers who are trained for that."

In addition to developing the educational model, the teacher and students will get first-hand research experience.

"This gives students a better chance at getting involved in what they really want - research," Usman said. "The students who work in the lab get a step ahead of their counterparts as they all head to college."

"We want to offer this research and study opportunity to our students because we believe that such opportunity will encourage them into the scientific and bioengineering technology fields," Usman said. "With the help of Dr. Yang and his graduate students, we will be able to emphasize the importance of research in our lives."

Usman and her students will be helping Yang in his work with biodegradable photoluminescent polymers, which are used as a safe imaging agent for targeted cancer drug delivery. Future uses could apply the polymers in a broad spectrum of biomedical applications, including biological labeling and imaging, and tissue engineering.

"We think excellence in research, especially in science and engineering, should start in high school," Usman said. She said this program allows that to happen.

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The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.

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