Mayfield to launch STEAM Inquiry Lab

Next year’s STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) Inquiry Lab is a formalized internship placement lab with a focus on individualized research. It will be run by Dr. Megan McEwen, physics teacher and Co-Chair of the Science Department.

Each student who participates in the STEAM Inquiry Lab will propose a question that she will attempt to develop and answer through her years in the program. Students will be expected to read scholarly articles and eventually secure an internship, in which she will be able to conduct research on her inquiry in a local laboratory.

McEwen ran a similar program at Milken Community School, the high school she formerly taught at, and says the school developed a good relationship with UCLA by the end of the program. She hopes to establish a similar relationship with Cal Tech and JPL through the STEAM Inquiry lab.

Students who participated in Cal Tech internships last summer feel that the STEAM Inquiry Lab is a good way to get more students interested in science and say that they would like to participate as well.

Junior Danielle New interned under a graduate student last summer at Cal Tech. She assisted the graduated student in finding the protein sequence of the gene that causes Huntington’s disease, a disease similar to Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. New ran gels and looked under microscopes to observe crystals in a process called X-ray Crystalography , a specialized field of biology.

“It was cool because a lot of kids my age don’t really know what that is or have done it,” said New.

New obtained her internship at Cal Tech through a friend of her mother’s, but said that it is hard to obtain such internships without a connection. Most of the interns that she worked with had connections to Cal Tech and had to go through a lengthy application process to become an intern.

Senior Christina Lara also interned at Cal Tech last summer for LEGO. She worked to create a device that could clean minute dust particles off surfaces inside the lab. She then had to determine which surfaces were cleanest by observing samples of the surfaces under a microscope.

Lara described her internship as “cool” because her work used real objects, not just simulations. Lara obtained her internship through math and science teacher Dr. Jack Blumenthal, who has been instrumental in helping students secure internships at both Cal Tech and JPL.

Both New and Lara said their internships were fun, and both are planning to return to Cal Tech this summer for jobs where they will be paid to work in the labs. Remy Traglio ’14, Lindsey Ladd ’14, Sabrina Waller ’15, Michaela Puccinelli ’15, and Katherine Tighe ’16 will also intern at Cal Tech.

Tighe, who will be interning in Cal Tech’s Department of Material Science, also plans to enroll in the STEAM Inquiry lab next year.

“I’m really excited about it!” she said.