Monica holds the Iowa flag at the camp.
When Monica Figueroa, a Buena Vista University freshman from Storm Lake, arrived on campus this fall she already had a head start interacting with students from other states and nations and exploring her interests in both science and art.
Monica was one of 120 top high school graduates representing the United States and 11 other countries at the 2012 National Youth Science Camp (NYSC) in the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia The camp’s four-week program integrated science programming with opportunities for the student delegates to explore music, art and the outdoors.
Each year, scientists from various disciplines travel to the camp to present lectures and lead directed studies. This year’s lecture topics included: global warming, genomic medicine, radio astronomy, and energy sustainability. Throughout camp, directed studies provided hands-on experiences in specific fields. The student delegates had the opportunity to dissect a human hand, discuss bioethics, explore forensic science techniques, and search through the DNA sequence of a genetic disease.
In addition to learning about groundbreaking scientific research, the students explored their natural surroundings through an extensive outdoor recreation program. They chose from seminars ranging from Ultimate Frisbee and swing dancing to discussions of philosophy, travel, religion, and culture The students also spent some time in Washington, D.C. meeting with federal government policy leaders.
“The NYSC broadened my mind with endless career possibilities in the field of science,” says Monica, who immigrated to the United States from Mexico with her family at the age of 5 “It brought out the best from all of the 120 delegates, exposing us to great learning opportunities.”
“The lecture that had the biggest impact on me was by Allan Daly,” she notes “The journey and obstacles he faced in helping build a sustainable hospital for the people of the Solomon Islands was heroic and inspirational.” (Over the last few years, Daly, and his wife, Suzanne, a physician, have been coordinating efforts to provide basic medical care to the people of the Marovo Lagoon, Solomon Islands. When they first visited the local hospital there on a vacation side trip in 2006 it had no reliable source of electricity or running water. They returned a few months later with medicine and supplies and started plans to install a solar-power system.)
Monica is yet undecided on an academic major at BVU “I like to be open minded on the eventual career path I’m meant to take,” she says “I have many interests, though science and art are my main fields of interest.”
Monica’s family lives just a few blocks from campus, but her first formal introduction to BVU was when she was a freshman at Storm Lake High School and was invited to participate in a 2009 grant-based summer wetlands research project led by Dr. Melinda Coogan, BVU assistant professor of biology “That was my first time being exposed to actual hands-on research as scientists like Dr. Coogan and her students do at BVU,” says Monica.
When Monica learned about the highly competitive NYSC opportunity from Coogan, she jumped at the chance to apply
In addition to participating in the NYSC, Monica was one of 15 Iowa high school seniors appointed to the Iowa Department of Education’s new Student Learning Council earlier this year The advisory group members provide input to state officials on what they believe is needed for students to succeed in school.