School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt fosters unique research opportunities for promising teen scientists

Calling all parents: The School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt is accepting applications from rising Metro Nashville Public Schools ninth graders until Feb. 11, 2022.  

The SSMV offers high schoolers a four-year, interdisciplinary, research-centered learning experience at one of the nation’s most prestigious universities, where internationally recognized faculty are leading the way in diverse fields of scientific study. 

The program offers students research opportunities that are unique to the Vanderbilt community. For example, this month two Metro Nashville Public Schools students in the SSMV senior class have been named as Tennessee’s only Top 300 Scholars in this year’s Regeneron Science Talent Search, a national competition designed to recognize promising young scientists in the U.S.  

Students Emi Gilmer and Jennifer Li attend Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High School. Each will receive a $2,000 prize, with matching awards sent to Hume-Fogg.  

Gilmer’s research, “The Effects of Daily Activities on Depressive Mood in High Schoolers,” found that weekday social media and texting increased depressive moods, while sleep and exercise decreased depressive moods. The project was inspired by challenges she noticed during remote learning among her peers. 

Working on my research completely online was definitely challenging, but I loved studying mental health in Hume-Fogg and SSMV students like me,” Gilmer said. “Special thanks to Dr. Menton Deweese, the SSMV and everyone who made this project possible.” 

Li’s project, “Effect of Range of Color Temperature and Melatonin Administration on Model Organism Lymnaea stagnalis,” examined links between a snail’s environment and memory retention as a way to understand possible effects of external stimuli on memory formation in general and, more specifically, potential impacts of light pollution on aquatic species. 

While working from home was an unexpected change of plans, I truly am glad that I was able to learn so much about the research process,” Li said. 

SSMV students competing in this year’s competition are members of the class of 2022, the 11th cohort to graduate from the program. 

Students began developing their projects during remote learning and then, rather than in a classroom or laboratory, students performed the bulk of their research at home during the summer, due to COVID restrictions. Students relied on Zoom meetings with their SSMV instructors and mentors for guidance.  

“It is so exciting to see the great talent in Metro Nashville Public Schools recognized by the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition, Regeneron Science Talent Search,” said Jennifer Berry, director of STEAM and science for MNPS. “The SSMV is a wonderful partner to MNPS, providing students with a unique interdisciplinary, research-centered learning opportunity. Partnerships matter so much in education, as they allow learning to extend beyond the four classroom walls. Experiences matter, too, and I am so proud our partnership allows for world-class experiences in which our students can receive national recognition.” 

The SSMV has received funding from Vanderbilt University, Metro Nashville Public Schools, the National Center for Research Resources of the National Institutes of Health and other generous donors.