Project ENGAGE | WABE 90.1 FM

Project ENGAGE

Solomon McBride stands next to a poster outlining his research on the link between HIV treatment and atherosclerosis.
Elly Yu / WABE News

All week, we've aired stories about two African-American high schoolers navigating through Georgia Tech's first-ever Project ENGAGE, a program designed to bring more minorities into the "STEM" fields -- Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. 

For this final component of the five-part series, I sat down in-studio for a conversation with Project ENGAGE co-founders Drs. Manu Platt and Robert Nerem.  

[A transcript of the interview wouldn't do it justice, so if you can, take a few minutes and listen.]

A timer ensures students don't go over their five-minute time allotment.  Jade Johnson (left) and Project ENGAGE co-founder Dr. Robert Nerem (right) listen as another participant describes his research dealing with osteoarthritis.
Jim Burress / WABE News

Two months of hard work come down to a packed but non-descript seminar room on Georgia Tech's campus. 

"The students know the rules," Project ENGAGE co-founder Dr. Manu Plat informs the audience.  

Each student has five minutes to present his or her research, and as the minutes pass, scholars impress with their knowledge of everything from potential long-term side effects of HIV medication to stem cells' role in treating osteoarthritis to "the effects of S1P and FTY720 on OP9 bone marrow stromal cells.”

In addition to being lab partners, Amadou Bah and Jovanay Carter have become fast friends.
Jim Burress / WABE News

When I last checked in on the Project ENGAGE scholars, they were going on "speed dates" to best match their interests with available mentors and specialized research labs. 

It's been about a month since that visit, and now students have settled into their lab assignments and are working on topics from stem cell research to HIV treatment complications to osteoarthritis.  

My first stop is the Botchwey lab, where Amadou Bah shows me around.  

B.E.S.T Academy student Amadou Bah (left) and Ga Tech grad student and Project ENGAGE mentro Jose Garcia (right) have just finished their five-minute 'speed date.'
Jim Burress / WABE News

Since last check in, the 12 Project ENGAGE students have spent the better part of a month in bioscience boot camp. 

Now, they’re eager for the next phase—getting their hands dirty in a real Georgia Tech research lab. 

Before that happens, students must choose labs that best meet their interests; likewise,  mentors have to decide which students will be the best fit.   

So they’re all going on a “speed date,” of sorts.

WABE's Jim Burress on Project ENGAGE

Aug 5, 2013
The inaugural group of ProjectENGAGE research scholars pose for a group photo on orientation day. They're about to embark on a year of intense, hands-on scientific research in a Georgia Tech laboratory.
Courtesy: Georgia Tech

Finding paths into the so-called STEM fields – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – remains especially challenging for minorities.

Researchers at Georgia Tech had the idea to help fix that: start small and “ENGAGE” them. 

Through a program called Project ENGAGE, twelve African-American students from Atlanta schools—are spending an entire year learning research fundamentals and contributing to ongoing scientific research.

The inaugural group of ProjectENGAGE research scholars pose for a group photo on orientation day. They're about to embark on a year of intense, hands-on scientific research in a Georgia Tech laboratory.
Courtesy: Georgia Tech

Finding paths into the so-called STEM fields – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – remains especially challenging for minorities. 

But a first-of-its kind program between Georgia Tech and two single-gender Atlanta high schools is working to change the trend.

Ga Tech grad student Jose Garcia answers questions from Jovanay Carter, a student at Coretta Scott King High School.  Carter was one of 12 students selected for ProjectENGAGE
Jim Burress / WABE News

A dozen Atlanta high school students are spending their summer in research labs at Georgia Tech.

While the thought would make many teens cringe, there were about three applicants for each opening in Tech's “Project ENGAGE” (Engaging New Generations at Georgia Tech through Engineering) program.

But Tech grad students don’t want the high schoolers who weren’t selected to lose interest.

That’s why a group is organizing a science club that will go out to schools to give students hands-on research experience.