Six NN High School Students Win Jefferson Lab Externships

Six Newport News 11th graders have won paid, six-week externships at Jefferson Lab. The six youth were finalists in the Lab's African-Americans in Science Essay Contest.

Winners are Jamel P. Bacon, Menchville High School; Alandis K. Brassel, Woodside High School; Chantel Randolph, Woodside High School; Tanya Sanford, Heritage High School; Reggie Stephens, Warwick High School; and Monne' Williams, Woodside High School.

The Lab as part of its Black History Month celebration sponsored the essay contest and oral presentation. The topic for the 500-word essay submissions was a 20th century African-American who made a significant contribution to science and/or technology.

"There were so many scientific and technological achievements made by African-American scientists, doctors and inventors during the 1900s," points out Lisa Surles-Law, JLab Science Education specialist. "Hosting this essay contest helps make people more aware of the significant impact African-Americans have had on society and our quality of life."

"We also felt an essay contest was a great way to encourage students' interest in science and technology," she continued, "and to be supportive of the scientific aspirations of today's youth."

Each externship will include three weeks in two different departments at the Lab. Each student will have the opportunity to experience a technical environment and an administrative environment, according to Surles-Law. The externships will begin June 18, and each student will earn $1,680 for his or her work.

The six finalists visited Jefferson Lab Feb. 28 for a morning of activities; then that afternoon they orally presented their essays in the Lab auditorium before Lab staff and a panel of judges. Before presenting their papers, each student answered the question: What was the most compelling or interesting thing you learned about your scientist? Their answers ranged from inventions and passion for learning to their perseverance in the face of racial injustices.

The essays discussed the lives, challenges and achievements of:

  • Garrett Augustus Morgan, 1877-1963, businessman and inventor of America's first traffic light system. The Morgan Traffic Signal received a U.S. patent in 1923 and was later patented in Great Britain and Canada. He also developed a gas mask for use by firemen, which was later adapted to protect U.S. and allied soldiers during World War I.
  • Dr. Charles Richard Drew, 1904-1950, was a leading authority in the field of blood preservation in the 1940s. He developed a method to separate plasma from whole blood — allowing the important plasma to be kept longer. He was appointed director of the first American Red Cross Blood Bank in 1941. With the introduction of dried blood plasma and Red Cross bloodmobiles (mobile blood banks), Drew's efforts saved the lives of many soldiers during World War II.
  • Mae Carol Jemison, 1956-, became the first female African-American astronaut in 1992. She conducted groundbreaking human physiology experiments while on a shuttle mission in space. She's served in the Peace Corps, worked on vaccines for the U.S. Center for Disease Control, and is now working to improve healthcare and economics in western Africa.
  • Shirley Ann Jackson, 1946-, was the first African-American female to earn a doctorate, in 1973, in theoretical physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the first black woman to receive a doctorate in any field from MIT. She became a research associate in theoretical physics at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Jackson served as an advisor to the Secretary of Energy on the future of Department of Energy laboratories, the National Academy of Sciences and the Advisory Council of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations. She earned the distinction of American Physical Society Fellow and is now a physics professor at Rutgers University.
  • George Washington Carver, 1864-1943, became the first African-American to enroll at Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts, in 1891, where he later became the first black faculty member, because of his advances in plant hybridization work. He completed his master's degree, developed scientific skills in plant pathology and mycology, the branch of science that deals with fungi, and in 1896 joined the faculty of Alabama's Tuskegee Institute. He developed hundreds of products from peanuts, sweet potatoes, pecans and other southern crops. He made synthetic marble from woodshavings, dyes from clay and starch, and wallboard and gum from cotton stalks. He earned the Roosevelt Medal for outstanding contributions to southern agriculture in 1942 and was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.