Trip to the east is inspiring instruction
Tawnya Molina, 17, a senior at Eagle Valley High School, spent six weeks this summer at the Frontiers of Science Institute in Greeley, and came back with a new life goal. She’s thinking about a career as a pharmacist, but has also developed a strong interest in engineering. She’s tailoring her college applications accordingly.
Molina has also loaded her class schedule this semester with college algebra, physics and chemistry classes. She proudly confides that she already scored 100 percent on a physics test.
“I would have never taken those classes if I hadn’t attend that program,” said Molina.
The Frontiers of Science Institute is a special program offered by the University of Northern Colorado that targets students with a high interest in and aptitude for science. The six-week program offers a series of daily blocks of instruction focusing on subjects such as molecular and cellular biological science, environmental science, physical science and earth and space science.
The class blocks include a combination of discussion, hands-on laboratory work and an emphasis on leading-edge topics. The curriculum includes field trips to industrial, government and institute research and production facilities in the state.
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Last year, Molina realized she was interested in science, but wasn’t quite sure about what to do with that interest. Eagle Valley High School science teacher Susan Hicks suggested that she apply to the Frontiers of Science program.
“She’s a very dedicated kid. She loves science,” says Hicks.
A sponsorship from Metcalf Archaeology in Eagle, with help from the Bacon Family Foundation and the Eagle Valley Youth Foundation, helped Molina with tuition.
Molina’s summer experiences included a trip to a medical lab at Colorado State University, where she viewed cadavers and animal dissections; trips to the Lockheed-Martin and John Mansville operations; and an ecology study at Rocky Mountain National Park.
The hands-on experience is a serious scientific endeavor. Molina was assigned to a professor of astrophysics who was involved in some ground-breaking research that involved photometry – taking photos of galaxies – then calibrating that data to determine how the galaxies evolve over time.
The Institute requires students to write a 20-page scientific research paper, then give a 40-minute presentation to students and faculty. The tone of the reports was professional. Molina said she was surprised to discover she could do the public speaking.
The six weeks at the Institute also gave her a taste of living away from home and making new friends. There was also some time for play, such as attending the Shakespeare Festival in Boulder, and splashing around at Water World.
“I learned that physics and chemistry were a lot more fun than I thought,” says Molina.
Taking most of the summer to attend the program was something of a financial risk for Molina, who works part-time at City Market in Eagle.
Metcalf Archaeology has participated in the Frontiers of Science program for about a dozen years, with varying degrees of sponsorship.
“She got a lot of support and encouragement at the institute, and we explored to a lot of experiences we can’t provide up here,” said Hicks.
Molina is now in the process of making her college applications. She’s looking at Mesa College, in a program that will eventually lead her to pharmacy school. She will be the first member of her family to attend college.
“I’m not going to lie. It (the institute) was a lot of hard work… but it was definitely worth it,” she says.
Tawnya is the daughter of Annabelle and Johannes Peglow of Gypsum.
This story first appeared in the Eagle Valley Enterprise.