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Science camp seeks to reformulate

February 23rd, 2011

BY GAIL COLE, Gazette-Times Reporter gazettetimes.com | Posted: Thursday, February 3, 2011 7:30 am

 Photo: Vaidahi Patel, 23, a second year pharmacy student at Oregon State University, helps Corvallis high school junior Isabel Goñi-McAteer, 16, measure mineral oil for the lip balm they made Wednesday evening at Saturday Academy. (Andy Cripe/Gazette-Times)

Ana Berst and Isabel Goñi-McAteer weren’t total strangers when they paired up as partners for a lip balm-making lab in the Pharmacy Building on the Oregon State University campus Wednesday afternoon.

“We have (advanced placement) biology together” at Corvallis High School, Ana said.

Ana, 17, and Isabel, 16, are participating with nine others in AWSEM, one of OSU’s Saturday Academy pre-college science education programs.

AWSEM — Advocates for Women in Science, Engineering and Math — is running six sessions this winter in two groups for middle- and high-school students. The middle school group, made up of 25 sixth- through eighth-graders, meets on Tuesdays in January and February, while the high school group, in its first year as an AWSEM program, meets Wednesdays.

Both age groups already have taken tours of OSU’s Wave Lab, Energy Center and College of Veterinary Medicine in earlier sessions.

Launched in 1986, OSU’s Saturday Academy has provided pre-college science programs that have since morphed into summer and after-school activities, such as Wednesday’s lab.

All OSU pharmacy students do the same lip balm-making lab in their first year, and several pharmacy students were on hand to assist with the lab, along with members of Sigma Delta Omega science sorority.

The first step for the students was to measure two grams of beeswax on an electric scale.

“Yes!” Ana and Isabel shouted in unison when their first measurement landed at the right amount.

The two melted the beeswax, petrolatum and carnauba oil over a hot plate and carefully added other chemicals with a syringe.

The final step was to agree on the flavors for the lip balm; not easy. Choices included cinnamon, peppermint and almond. The right combination could make or break the all-important lip balm flavor.

“Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not,” said Vaidahi Patel, a second-year pharmacy student who was watching over Ana and Isabel’s work.

Ultimately, two drops each of lemon and lime flavoring went into the lip balm mixture. They carefully poured the hot liquid into five-gram lip balm containers and placed them in an ice bath to cool. They’d be ready to soothe the lips in less than 30 minutes.

Cathy Law, the interim director of Saturday Academy, explained that AWSEM paired pre-college-aged girls with peer mentors who were recruited Wednesday from among pharmacy students and sorority volunteers. The goal is to encourage more young women to consider careers in the sciences.

And did the experiment persuade the young participants that science would be a fun career? Isabel said she’d need more time.

“I haven’t decided yet.”

Copyright 2011 gazettetimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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