Ashley He / Sun Staff Photographer

Sharing research during the pandemic meant virtual presentations and Q&As rather than the typical in-person ones.

September 2, 2020

Cornell Students Inspire New Generation of Researchers

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After Isabella Salas-Allende ’19 found a passion for research during a high school program, she decided to pay it forward by starting the Young Researchers Program at Cornell in 2016.

Typically, the program pairs undergraduate mentors with Ithaca high school students to shadow and participate in research. After COVID-19 threw a wrench in their plans, they went virtual. In the beginning of August, the group hosted a virtual lecture series featuring ten professors across a variety of disciplines.

Piero Salas-Allende ’22, Isabella’s brother, coordinated the project, inspired by the impact the program previously has had on local students.

Maintaining the same goal of broadening students’ horizons and exposing them to academic research, the professors delved into their work, which spanned a diverse array of subjects from advanced robotics to labor policy. Because of the program’s virtual nature, the group was able to reach even more students from around the world.

“I think a lot of students in high school are exposed to a bunch of STEM clubs, but there’s actually really great opportunities for humanities research out there,” said Grace Wang ’22, treasurer of YRP. “We actually had professors in policy analysis management, design, industrial labor relations so the future [of research opportunities is] not just limited to STEM.”

In addition to the myriad of “futuristic designs and robots,” the series also included examples of combining multiple disciplines in advancement of cross-disciplinary research.

“Being able to see that you can kind of combine the best of both worlds, I think it’s really important for high schoolers to know,” Wang said about the intersection of STEM and humanities.

With over 100 students attending the virtual lectures, not every student was able to have their questions answered by a professor. As a result, YRP allowed students to type in their unanswered questions in a survey at the end so that the professors could respond.

Having completed this virtual series, YRP hopes to continue exposing new high schoolers to research and as Salas-Allende put it, “to expand this program to other colleges across the country, down the line.”