SEED Program Hopes to Grow Chemists
For three Kalamazoo Central High School students summer wasn’t about sun, sand and water — it was about oleoresin, tricepyridinum and digital transformation. T
he three participated in the Kalamazoo Section of the American Chemistry Society’s Project SEED, which introduces students to the world of professional chemists through hands-on internships.
This year’s SEED fellows were Kalamazoo Central and Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center senior Alejandro Alvarez and KC juniors Eddie Anderson and Sadaya Hamby.
Started as a way to introduce students to research and chemistry concepts, the national SEED program has been in existence for more than 50 years. The Kalamazoo chapter has participated for 26 years.
High school students participate in paid summer research projects for eight to 10 weeks during the program, which pairs them with chemist mentors in academia and industry. The program also exposes them to college readiness, professional development and lab preparedness. At the end of the summer, the students presented their summer research at a program at Kalamazoo College.
“I have always been interested in science and engineering, it was not until my sophomore year that I realized I really enjoyed chemistry,” Anderson wrote in a project summary. “Through Project SEED, I am able to experience hundreds of scientific techniques and meet many professional scientists.”
Working at Kalsec with Dr. Joe Chemler, he examined paprika oleoresin to improve the percentage of product made correctly without any need for rework or correction.
Anderson said he appreciated his mentors at Kalsec and their willingness to help him understand the complexities of the scientific world.
“The most important thing I learned at Kalsec is, always ask other scientists about their work, because it can provide valuable information about what you can do in the future,” Anderson said.
Alvarez worked with David Bolliet and Michael Horton at Kalsec where he used his programming skills to help modernize the company’s gas chromatography-mass spectrometry library of essential oil analyses and created a searchable database of the library.
Hamby worked with Kalamazoo College chemistry professor Dr. Dwight Williams to create an antimicrobial using synthesis and hybrids. She said she appreciated the opportunity to participate in hands-on learning, which vastly expanded her understanding of the scientific world.
She advised future participants to embrace the challenges of the program. “I know sometimes you might get a little overwhelmed at first at maybe even the thought of working with people who have more knowledge and experience than you, but that’s part of what you’re here for. You are here to learn and especially in a way that you can’t get sitting in a classroom.”
Doug Williams, a research fellow at Kalsec, is the Project SEED coordinator and treasurer of the Kalamazoo section of ACS. He said he’d love to see more students participate in the program. He encouraged teachers, students and families to look for the application process, which opens in January.
GPA is not a selection factor and applicants do not need to be star students, but they should have a year of chemistry and a general interest in science. A teacher referral is also recommended.
Williams said the program pays the interns for the eight-week program. Although some of it is covered by funding from the national organization, the remainder is paid for through local fundraising. People interested in donating or serving as professional mentors can contact Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anderson encouraged other students to apply to the program as a valuable way to learn about science careers and to expand their understanding of the scientific process.
“Try to experience science through other lenses than your own, to understand why it is that scientists do what they do,” he said. “ACS Project SEED is a fantastic way to see what you like and don’t like in the scientific world, and even what you could change.”