At age six, Albert Einstein took part in his first experiment when his father showed him a pocket compass. The young boy understood that regardless of where the compass was turned, the needle always pointed north.
California State University, Northridge’s The New Journal of Student Research Abstracts, Volume 16, co-sponsored with Van Nuys Airport, provides Los Angeles-area K-12 students the opportunity to have their scientific research published and encourages their further involvement in research science.
“The national security, health and welfare depend on great scientists,” said Cal State Northridge biology professor Steven B. Oppenheimer, founder and editor of the journal and director of CSUN’s Center for Cancer and Developmental Biology. “The journal is important as it sparks an interest in science in the earliest years.”
Among the topics covered in this year’s journal, a study of interference of the human mind, which found that the human mind will struggle completing a task with interference rather than the one without interference, and a capsaicin study that compared the use of milk, sugar and bread with butter to relieve the burning sensation after biting on five hot peppers. That study’s results were that milk and bread with butter provided faster, permanent relief due to its high fat content. While sugar helped reduce the burning sensation on the tongue until it dissolved.
Another study compared bacterial levels present on a kitchen sponge, a toilet seat and a game controller. Each were rubbed with a cotton swab and swiped in a petri dish and left for a week’s incubation. The results were that the kitchen sponge contained the highest level of bacteria.
Oppenheimer said that the abstracts demonstrate good science, including clear introductions describing a hypothesis to be tested, appropriate methods and data analysis, results and conclusion statements. Sufficient numbers of appropriate control and experimental samples, and repetitions of experiments are most important. Some are idea abstracts and some are abstracts of library or Internet research projects. The journal also contains flawed abstracts so students can learn what makes for a good experiment and a good abstract vs. a not-so-good experiment and a not-so-good abstract.
Students are required to follow abstracts guidelines. The abstracts can only be submitted by their science teacher. The abstracts are reviewed by teachers and the journal editors. The final selections are made by Oppenheimer.
Oppenheimer was a recipient of the 2009 U.S. Presidential Award for Excellence in science, mathematics and engineering mentoring and received the award from President Barack Obama at the White House.
“The journal, along with my success in mentoring CSUN students, were a key component in winning the award,” said Oppenheimer.
The New Journal of Student Research Abstracts is published every fall. Contact Steve Oppenheimer for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.