Exposing youth to the exciting world of research

John McCormick, an earth science and physics teacher at East Bakersfield High School, shows the grain mount he's polished to expose the small pieces of rock for analysis.

In one of 14 science-related research projects taking place on campus this summer, local high school students and teachers are attempting to figure out why some wells at the Kern Water Bank have higher levels of arsenic than others.

The project is part of the Chevron-funded REVS-UP program, aimed at getting young people excited about entering the math and science fields. CSUB’s geology department is putting the participants to work to detect pyrite – aka fool’s gold – in core samples taken near the wells. (Apparently pyrite attracts arsenic when it forms, so as it deteriorates, it releases the arsenic. Hence, wells drilled where there’s pyrite might be linked to higher levels of arsenic.)

The process involves mounting small pebbles of rock in epoxy resin, sanding it down to expose the samples, then analyzing the content with a state-of-the-art scanning electron microscope. Students and teachers are taking part in every step of the research, from creating the grain mounts to using the high-powered microscope.

We’ll be blogging about more REVS-UP projects this month, including robot programming and valley fever research. Also, we’ll be continually adding to our Facebook photo gallery as the projects progress.