(l. to r.) R-MC Professor Traci Stevens, Cosby High School Biology Teacher Terri
Hale, Cosby students Andrew Simmons and April Peterson.
Simmons and Peterson are continuing the research
begun by Chris Moline '10 (center) and Kristina Reiss '11.
Hale: "Anything that involves doing true science inquiry is
what I would like these students to participate in."
Randolph-Macon College Biology Professor Traci
Stevens is sharing lab space with high school students—and loving it.
Stevens, who in 2009 received a five-year award of $880,000 from the National Science
Foundation (NSF) through its Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program,
is conducting research at R-MC to identify the molecules that regulate the ways
in which cells migrate. April Peterson and Andrew Simmons, rising seniors at Cosby
High School in Chesterfield, Virginia, along with their teacher, Terri Hale, are
conducting research alongside Stevens. Their project is funded through Stevens’
“The Cosby team is doing their work in Drosophila (fruit flies) and examining
the effects of mutations in different parts of the genome on development of the
fruit fly embryo,” explains Stevens. “This is actually an extension of a project
that Randolph-Macon students Chris Moline ’10 and Kristina Reiss ’11 started last
year.” Moline and Reiss are also working with the Cosby students, serving as mentors
and lab partners.
According to Stevens, the opportunity for high school students to conduct research
of this caliber is a great way for them to gain hands-on experience, use state-of-the-art
equipment and be mentored. “It’s a fabulous opportunity,” she says. “The students
are realizing that when you do experiments in a high-school biology lab, the data
is nice and clean. Here, they’re experiencing what real data is like. Not only do
they not know what the outcome will be, I don’t know what the
outcome will be.”
Stevens has been impressed by the students’ dedication. “April and Andrew are very
focused, and Terri has been doing the research right along with them,” she says.
“They’re really working as a team.”
Simmons is enjoying his five-week stint at R-MC, which will culminate with a poster
presentation at the annual Schapiro Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) event
on Thursday, August 5. “You learn so much in high school, but to go to college and
not only learn but apply that knowledge, well, that takes it to a new level,” he
says. The students, who work 40 hours a week, also receive a stipend and attend
the SURF seminar series on career pathways.
Peterson applied to be considered for the research project after Stevens gave a
presentation about it at Cosby High School. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is amazing,’”
she explains. “I’m extremely happy to have been given this opportunity to do research.
I had never done lab work like this before.”
Hale, who has taught biology to Peterson and Simmons at Cosby, is thrilled to have
spent time doing research with her students this summer. “Anything that involves
doing true science inquiry is what I would like to have students participate in,”
she says. “The atmosphere is so friendly, the work is rigorous and I enjoy involving
students in something that takes them well beyond what they’ve done before….and
this does just that. It’s been an outstanding experience.”
Stevens joined the faculty at R-MC in 2004. She earned her B.S. from the University
of Northern Iowa and her Ph.D. from Washington University.
For more information on R-MC’s biology department, visit
For information on R-MC's SURF program, visit http://www.rmc.edu/why-rmc/SURF.aspx