By Steve Sears
Three students attending New Jersey schools were recently selected along with seventeen others around the country to take part in the BASF 2019 Science Academy at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison.
Jefferson High School representative Patrick Flynn, Morristown High School’s Sheetal Bangalore, and Theo Coughlin, who hails from Tuxedo Park, New York but attends nearby Delbarton High School, were among others from across the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico attending the two-week long academy.
2019 is the ninth consecutive year BASF of Florham Park has hosted the Science Academy. Molly Borst is Manager, STEM Education – North America. “Our hope is to expand the program with other universities. It is a BASF program, and it’s a two-week comprehensive program that includes both Chemistry and Business. All of our students (who are broken down into five teams of four individuals each) – ultimately their projects – they’re going to be formulating a personal care product in the laboratory, and coming up with a go-to market strategy, bringing both of those things to a final graduation presentation at headquarters where there will be a panel of BASF executives and FDU professors that they’ll present to.”
Flynn enjoys the hands-on experience with in-the-field professionals. “We have marketing and business professors, and then we have college chemistry professors telling us the real things we’ll actually have to know if we’re trying to enter the industry, so it’s just so important that we have this hands-on experience, and we’re able to make the connection. In high school, you have chemistry class and business class, but here you’re really making the connection. You can have fun in the lab, but it’s no use if you can’t market your product and sell it , so that’s a really important part that a lot of high school education misses is the connection between these different fields.”
“First you get nominated by your school – the school is able to nominate two students – and then you fill out an application that consists of some essay questions,” says Bangalore, explaining the application process. “One of them, I think that was an important question, was ‘How do you see science and sustainability in the future?’. I was the only one who knew about the program because I volunteered at the Morris Museum two years for a Kids Lab at “Chemistry Day,” and I met Molly and she told me about it. I became interested in applying once I was in 11th grade, and I was the only student who knew much about it in my school, hence I was the only one nominated, and the only student that applied for it.”
Coughlin says focusing on both the creative (chemistry) and financial (marketing) aspects impresses him. “The combination between the marketing and the science is really the most unique part of the BASF Academy,” he attests. “If you can really notice both sides and aspects of the business, you can really contribute in the future in a positive way and bring something in development through the marketplace and make it successful and actually help people.”
“What I really like is they’re from all over North America,” says James Salierno, Chair of the Departments of Biological and Allied Health Sciences at FDU, regarding the various areas and backgrounds of the students. “I’m always really impressed with how they conduct themselves in the lab, as high school students. I’m not really familiar with curriculum in high school, but they do really, really well in terms of following directions and using equipment. They get a great, well-rounded experience the whole time.”
According to Borst, it’s most of all about keeping the love of science alive. “It’s a wide sampling of students, hoping that we’re just kind of inspiring that love of science and ultimately, helping us with the filling of that talent pipeline. We know,” says Borst, “that we’re in need of scientists. We’re really trying to keep that love going so they’ll continue down that path.”