Students Going Places

The Academy offers opportunity and new horizons to high school, undergraduate, and graduate level students interested in the sciences. For some, it even means international travel.

Three years ago, Flor Vargas entered the Academy's intern program with only a textbook experience with science. Now, in January 2001, she's embarking on a month-long expedition to Madagascar headed by Academy entomologist Dave Kavanaugh. The team is helping to assess biodiversity in Ranomafana National Park by collecting, identifying, and describing beetles in the family Carabidae.

Flor is participating as part of "Careers in Science: Research Experiences Program," a curriculum established to offer young people involvement in real, working science and to increase ethnic, cultural, and gender diversity in science education. Anyone from the Academy's intern program and willing to work can apply.

map:  Madagascar
Photo:  students with beetle keys
Marisol Zavala, Flor Vargas and Emily Elsom discussing how scientists identify beetles using keys. Flor and Emily (who is a graduate student at San Francisco State University studying the tribe Platynini) are participating in the Madagascar trip.

Students conduct research under the tutelage of biologists and graduate students and also present this information to the public, giving regular demonstrations to Academy visitors. Some earn school credit and all participants are paid.

Flor, born in El Salvador and now a sophomore at San Francisco State University, is thrilled about the trip. In addition to learning science through the program, she can now enjoy speaking English publicly, she says, "without a problem."

The Madagascar project is supported in part by generous grants from the McBean Family Foundation.

photo:  Roberta L. Brett
Roberta L. Brett, Senior Assistant Curator on the Madagascar team will be focusing on the genus Omophron.
predacious ground beetle of tribe Platynini
Typical example of the predacious ground beetlesof the tribe Platynini.