Young REsearchers share their work at a professional physics conference

Seven Ransom Everglades students are among the youngest attendees presenting original research at the annual American Physical Society Conference in Minneapolis March 4-5. Members of RE’s Young REsearchers Program (YREP), Sofia Rakhimi ’25, Paloma Lopes ’25, Michael Mederos ’25, Francisco Gomez Rivas-Vazquez ’24, Dieter Manstein ’25, Carlos Horcasitas ’25 and Mia Campbell ’25 submitted abstracts on their work with RE's portable laser and traveled to the conference physics teachers Dr. Emily Grace and Paul Natland '02.
The meeting annually brings together some 13,000 physicists and students from academia, industry and major labs around the world to connect and collaborate. The students are presenting their research for discussion and review, and Grace is a featured conference speaker giving a talk on combining outside research with the classroom activities.

RE’s Young REsearchers Program began in 2020 under former faculty member Dr. Claudia Ochatt, and it continues to offer interested upper school students research opportunities in and out of the classroom.

Mederos, Rakhimi and Lopes are presenting the paper they authored with RE faculty members Grace, Kristine Stump and Heather Marshall: Biophysics Comes to High School: “Developing a Low-Cost Method for Measuring the Force of a Laser Tweezer Trap.” Rivas-Vazquez, Horcasitas, Manstein and Campbell authored “Integrated Machine Learning and Laser Spectral Analysis of Penny Composition Across the 20th Century” with Grace, Stump, Marshall and two other researchers. That paper was featured in a press release sent out about the conference. Both groups utilized Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy using the portable laser in the Fernandez STEM Center.

“The research posters are the result of extra-curricular work related to the YREP program,” Grace said. “It is very unusual for high school students to be able to do research at this level, and even more unusual for students to have research as part of their coursework.”

Grace, whose conference talk is entitled, “CURE-in in High School: Incorporating Original Research into a High School Physics Classroom,” brought a longtime passion for research to RE when she arrived last summer, continuing the work with YREP started by Ochatt and RE faculty member Luis Felipe. She had spent the previous five years developing undergraduate programs in biophysics and physics education at a liberal arts college, working closely with Washington University in St. Louis and its dual-degree engineering program. She earned her BS in physics and MSEd simultaneously from Indiana University, then completed a PhD in astroparticle physics at Royal Holloway University of London.

“Being involved in original physics research as an undergraduate student was life-changing for me,” she said. “When I started to think about my researching career working at a liberal arts college, this was my driving ethos. How could research opportunities be made available to more students? … I am passionate about both the science and the opportunities it provides for students.”
Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades School is a coeducational, college preparatory day school for grades 6 - 12 located on two campuses in Coconut Grove, Florida. Ransom Everglades School produces graduates who "believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it." The school provides rigorous college preparation that promotes the student's sense of identity, community, personal integrity and values for a productive and satisfying life, and prepares the student to lead and to contribute to society.