Early College research and STEM program expands to additional campuses

Building on the success of the Integrated Science Research and Career Exploration course at the University of Maine Hutchinson Center in Belfast the past few years, this innovative course for rising 11th and 12th graders is now expanding to the Orono and Machias campuses.

Introduction to Integrated Science and Career Exploration (INT 188) is a four-week, three-credit environmental (biology or chemistry) science lab research college course, designed to introduce high school students to higher education and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The course includes lecture and laboratory instruction in data collection and analysis, experimental design, measuring and graphic techniques, scientific writing and evidence-based thinking.

INT 188 is offered tuition free for qualified high school students through Early College. Students who pay to attend high school in Maine, including out-of-state and international students, will be charged a reduced Early College rate of $138.25/credit hour. Early College is a partnership between the University of Maine System and the Maine Department of Education, supported by the Legislature. 

Ruth Havener doing research in the UMaine Hutchinson Center lab

Students in the course participate in group work, a research project in environmental chemistry or environmental biology, a career-planning assignment focusing on STEM fields, career exploration experiences and a final research symposium. In previous years, INT 188 students have used this opportunity to research local environmental issues of concern, such as the impact of the presence of microplastics in Penobscot bay.

Ruth Havener, of Medomak Valley High School, who participated in INT 188 in summer 2021, enjoyed collecting her own data, getting her own samples and using a real lab. And perhaps most of all, she and her classmates got to study relevant, contemporary issues.

“We got to study things that actually matter,” Havener said.

During the course, Havener and her classmates sampled sand from several points along the shore at Sears Island, where 5,000 pounds of plastic bound for an incinerator spilled at Mack Point cargo facility in Searsport in December 2020. The students used microscopes to look at the microplastics.

Ruth Havener presenting the results of her research at a community symposium

“The fibers look like little strings. It makes you realize that plastics really are everywhere,” Havener noted. She was already interested in microplastics before taking the course and was grateful to be able to take her knowledge to the next level.

In March 2022, Havener won a full-tuition scholarship to UMaine at the Maine State Science Fair for her research on extracting microplastics from blue mussels. “I know I wouldn’t have made it as far as I did this year if it weren’t for the experience I received in the class. I learned so much about scientific research in a very short period of time,” says Havener.

Havener was happy to see several other previous INT 188 students at the Maine State Science Fair, including Albert Bai, who won a category award in biomedical sciences, and Sam Ahola, who also won a full-tuition scholarship to UMaine.

Albert Bai doing research on Sears Island

This innovative course with a low student-teacher ratio provides a unique summer opportunity for students who are interested in exploring STEM-related careers and engaging in a research project. Thirty percent of class time will be spent outdoors doing fieldwork, with the remainder spent in the classroom and labs at UMaine’s top-notch facilities. For more information about INT 188 at any of the three locations, visit umaine.edu/earlycollege/courses/summer-courses/int188.