Middle school students learn about STEM careers at RTI International as part of North Carolina’s Students@Work℠ Week

Students learn about analytical chemistry, forensic toxicology, and biomass energy research


RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC – Sixteen eighth grade students from Rogers-Herr Middle School in Durham learned about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers at RTI International as part of Students@Work℠ Week.

Students participated in various activities designed to inspire their interest in STEM education and encourage their pursuit of STEM careers. They learned about RTI’s research, toured RTI’s Research Triangle Park main campus and lab facilities, and engaged in activities focused on analytical chemistry, forensic toxicology, and biomass energy research.

Students learned about how researchers use chromatography to identify if drugs are present in blood, urine and oral fluid, and whether medications and other consumer products are safe for the public. Additionally, students learned about the process and equipment involved in converting biomass such as sawdust into bio-oil and then gasoline/diesel fuels and other chemicals using chemical reactions. 

“The agenda was designed to show how STEM research can be used to solve problems and help people worldwide,” said Olivia Rice, RTI’s Students@Work coordinator and Education Research Analyst. “At the end of the program, students developed posters to illustrate their understanding.”

The goal of Students@Work℠ is for businesses to help middle school students see the opportunities that exist in the workplace and to gain knowledge of the career skills needed to obtain those jobs in their community. This year’s initiative includes more than 150 companies and approximately 24,000 students.

The Students@Work℠ initiative centers its efforts around middle school students because middle school is a crucial time for dropout prevention and is when high school curriculum planning takes place. Direct experience with the workplace helps to demonstrate to students the relevance of education to their future success.

“RTI is dedicated to growing the research capacity in the Triangle,” said Kimberly O’Malley, Ph.D., senior vice president, education and workforce development at RTI. “Hosting these students is a fabulous opportunity to let our future generation learn about what a career in research is all about and the impact that our research can make.”

This is RTI’s fourth year participating in the program.