Students at the Academies learn science by conducting hands-on research in our state-of-the-art facilities. The goal of our research program is to enable students to learn how to think and work similar to scientists. Research students learn to stretch beyond the numbers and terminology of science. They learn how to devise scientific questions, to acquire and analyze data, and to properly communicate their ideas. Sustainability and environmental soundness are considerations in designing projects. Currently, our research program includes the five following options:
Students in this program are provided with the tools and technical expertise to synthesize, manipulate, analyze and visualize interesting nanoscale structures for various, interdisciplinary applications. Research projects in the areas of nanomaterials may incorporate the utilization of Atomic absorption spectroscopy, Contact angle measurement tool equipped with a high speed camera, Dynamic light scattering particle size analyzer/zeta potential analyzer, Glove Box, Fourier transform infrared spectrophotometry, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy and/or UV-Vis-NIR spectrophotometry. Students compete in various science competitions such as Siemens and Regeneron Science Talent Search. The program also aims to foster the convergence between science and art-design. This year, a sophomore student was recognized as a 2nd place national winner/People’s Choice Award in the Generation Nano: Small Science, Superheroes Competition sponsored by National Science Foundation. Two groups of freshmen won mid-Atlantic regional prizes at Chemagination contests.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Students pursuing this research program option learn how the programming of living cells can be altered through the manipulation of genetic information. Through their research, students learn how to clone, modify, and transfer genes to cultured cells and organisms, as well as what goes into the propagation and differentiation of stem cells
Several students have made major advances in their research projects. One student developed a sensitive assay to identify and quantitate deletions in mitochondrial DNA, and subsequently demonstrated that these deletions correlate with certain cellular events in stem cells, notably aging. He won second prize at the Intel Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) and became a Google semifinalist with this work. A recent graduate studied the role of the human sirtuin 1 gene (SIRT1), a survival gene that protects cells from stress, in the accumulation of amyloid β (Aβ) and tau proteins in a neuroblastoma cell line. Another student studied the role of the human sirtuin 1 gene (SIRT1), a survival gene that protects cells from stress, in the accumulation of amyloid β (Aβ) and tau proteins in a neuroblastoma cell line. Such work could contribute to our understanding of the development of neurofibrillary tangles in Alzheimer's disease.
Cell Biology Research
The students working in the Cell Biology Research Lab have been engaged in some remarkable activities this year. Since September, their research projects have brought them much recognition including a provisional patent, a publication in the journal of Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy, three recognized as INTEL Science Talent Search Semifinalists, two as Siemens Competition Semifinalists, two iSWEEEP International Finalists, two International Science and Engineering Finalists with one taking Second Place and one winning First Place and Best in Category and a trip to India, several Junior Science and Humanities National Finalists, several New Jersey Academy of Sciences and Young Science Achievers Finalists as well as 18 National HOSA Finalists, with 4 students placing first at the International Leadership Conference in Biomedical Debate. Two students are attending prestigious summer programs including HOPPS and RSI. In addition, in light of their passion for STEM, the research students and the Do Something Club facilitated the Bergen SciChallenge Middle School Science Fair affiliated with the Society for Science and the Public, a Broadcom MASTERS sponsored event.
Nano-Structural Imaging Lab
The mission of NSIL Biological Research is to introduce students to scientific inquiry, through research and instrumentation, and to provide transferable, hands-on experiences with the techniques, practices and perspectives of professional scientists; with an emphasis on microscopy as an analytical technique, especially electron microscopy. Students are eligible to participate in this program after completing one of the pre-requisite courses. Next, the student will develop a novel research project based on their own interests and current scientific literature, in cell biology, molecular biology, structural biology, biomedical research, or related fields. They will then learn the tools and techniques to carry out experiments on a topic of their choosing, acquire and analyze data, and present their results in either written or oral form. Students from this lab have produced images that have been described as “textbook quality” by professionals in the field. These students are well suited for careers in bio-imaging, histology, pathology, and other clinical research options.
Math Research Program
The Math research program is aimed at preparing students for contests based on math research such as Siemens and Intel talent search. The students write papers in Combinatorics, Number Theory, Geometry etc. Every year our students win math grants through YSAP. They also take part in NJRSF,ISEF, AMC 10, AMC 12, AIME, USA Math Olympiad and the International Math Olympiad. This year a student won the USA Math Olympiad and a gold medal at the International Math Olympiad in Thailand. Another student won third place and a $40,000 scholarship at the Siemens competition in Math, Science and Technology
The Academy Research Mission
The mission of BCA Research is to expose students to scientific inquiry, research and instrumentation, and to provide transferable, first-hand experiences with the techniques, practices and perspectives of professional scientists. By expanding the capabilities and context of secondary science education, we believe that students will be better equipped for, and more likely to pursue leadership positions in science, scientific research and global-scale problem solving.
The foundations of the research program at BCA are deeply rooted in providing a real-world research environment for students to develop the independence, accountability, vision and drive to become outstanding members and future leaders within the science community. Our research program is based on six foundational principles, which work in concert with one another, to lay the groundwork necessary to nurture and challenge students to strive for excellence.
Perspective can be thought of as the jumping off point between traditional classroom teaching and independent research. Students gain perspective in three ways. First, they must be taught the basic principles, theories, and historical perspectives that have shaped and formed our current understanding of modern science.
The second perspective is personal. Students are asked what in science or society truly interests them, connects with them, or affects them. If given unlimited resources, what question would they want to study, and what problem would they want to solve. This internal perspective can be intimidating, but it allows students to begin to think like a scientist, and creates an immediate investment in the research. Since the student developed the idea, they feel a greater sense of accountability when it comes to its success or failure.
Students third gain perspective on the current state of science and research. Students must understand what research is currently being conducted by performing primary literature searches on their topic. This is an important, but difficult stage for the students. Understanding where to go to locate journal articles and how to dissect out the pertinent information is a skill that takes practice and patience, but will be valuable for the student beyond high school. Through the reading multiple papers on a topic, and with the guidance of the instructor, a student gains the perspective needed to develop the structure for their project,and insight into how and where research is done.
Students conducting independent research come to understand the purpose of their research on two scales. The first deals with the goals of the project. When developing the project and determining necessary experiments, students must understand the purpose of performing each experiment, the possible outcomes, and the goals that are to be achieved at each stage. Understanding the purpose of each experiment forces the abstract information gathered from the primary literature to be focused into a logical progression of tests throughout the project.
Next, the larger scale purpose of the research must also be considered by the student. This greater purpose normally coincides with the student's reasons for wanting to do the project (the internal perspective previously mentioned). The perspective gained through background literature research kindles students understanding of the current state of the field and the importance of where the project would fit into the field. Thus, the greater purpose is understood by the student and is a motivator to work diligently to obtain meaningful results that may contribute to the greater body of knowledge on the subject.
The tools needed to carry out experimentation make up a portion of the student's resources in a research project. Understanding how to use an instrument and obtain data, as well as determining the best tool to use for an experiment are important skills that a student develops in the experimentation stage of a project.
The techniques that a student learns mecome an important a resource. The experimentation stage of the project introduces students to techniques and skills, which through practice, precision, and dedication beget mastery. These skills are transferable to any future lab environment a student encounters. The quality of results in a project hinges on the careful execution of techniques and protocols by the student.
The final resource that is critical to student success is guidance by the mentor or instructor. Without a mentor who is patient and engaged in all stages of the independent research project, the techniques cannot be properly taught and the tools are rendered useless. The mentor watches over the student after teaching the tools and techniques, but it is the student who is responsible for the success or failure of a given experiment. Although the mentor is critical in guiding the student through the research project, they are not the only guide students must have have comfort reaching out to, learning to collaborate with other students, teachers, and professionals alike.
Collaborating with other mentors and professionals is important in order to develop additional techniques needed in the research project. Prior to discussing the research project with outside professionals, the student must fully gain confidence and understand the core concepts and methods of the project, question the topics that are still met with difficulty, and intelligently discuss the future direction of the project based on results. As collaboration is a critical part of professional research, it is also a critical step in preparing students for a future in science.
Collaboration with other students is also a necessary part of the independent research project. Students involved in research will collaborate in a peer to peer format, where students discuss topics, review others work, and provide feedback. This peer to peer collaboration is important for the students because it allows for independent growth in the project without the direct oversight and guidance of the mentor. When a student reaches the later stages of research, the student will also collaborate newer to research or struggling with a technique or protocol can receive guidance from the more advanced student.
Running an assay or experiment is important in order to obtain data and results. Learning to analyze the results can be a more difficult task. Proper analysis includes dissection and interpretation of the data, plotting data into easy to understand visual charts, determination of statistical significance, and differentiatie neuances between correlation and causation.
In addition to analyzing the data, students must also analyze the research project as a whole. By analyzing the overall project, students ensure that the core concepts of the project are understood, that necessary and logical experiments were carried out, and that the data is meaningful and easily understood. Once all of the analysis has been carried out, the student is ready for the culminating stage of the independent research project.
The experience of carrying out a research project and putting into practice the information that is learned in the classroom is critical in this model, in order to change the way science is taught in this country. However, after all of the lab work and analysis is completed, it is necessary for a student to share the findings in the same way that a professional would. Students must compile the findings of the study in the form of a written report, poster, oral presentation, or in some cases, a publication. This process allows students to practice important presentation and technical writing skills that will be needed in future education and careers. This also allows the students to showcase work that they were involved in for months or even years, and receiving feedback in order to make improvements.