Students at prefectural Tsuruoka Chuo High School participate and assist in Keio U. lab’s cutting-edge research

YAMAGATA–Local high school students are working as research assistants at the Institute for Advanced Biosciences of Keio University in Tsuruoka, Yamagata Prefecture, as part of a project to help high schoolers develop an interest in science.

This unusual approach by a research body offers the students a rare opportunity to participate in cutting-edge research. Students participating in the program have said the experience will likely help them choose a career path ahead of their collage entrance examinations.

The university hopes the institute will produce future leaders in the Japanese scientific world and help change the present situation in which research institutions are concentrated in or around large cities.

One third-year student and three first-year students from the prefectural Tsuruoka Chuo High School, which is located near the institute, are taking part in four studies being conducted by lecturers and others at the institute. Though graduate students usually take on such assistant roles, the institute decided to allow high school students to participate, hoping that the experience in cutting-edge research would help them in the future.

The four students grow algae as part of a study into biofuels and gather database information for the study. They work about two hours after school on weekdays for 770 yen an hour. Their employment will last until summer vacation starts.

Hitomi Sato, one of the first-year students, said, “I’d like to improve my knowledge, and I hope this experience helps me decide what I want to do in the future.”

At their welcoming ceremony on May 8, the director general of the institute, Masaru Tomita, asked the four students to view their tasks at the institute not just as academic training, but as a genuine research job. “I hope you can contribute to our research,” Tomita said. “Please work on each assignment not thinking it’s impossible just because you’re in high school. We think of you as colleagues.”

The institute plans to hire high school students as research assistants again in autumn.

(May. 17, 2009)

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