Six weeks studying science

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While their friends were enjoying time away from school this summer, Amy Nicodemus and Richard Becker were wrestling with complicated scientific processes and assisting with advanced research projects.

The two Moffat County High School students spent six weeks at a University of Northern Colorado Frontiers of Science Institution.

They spent three mornings a week studying engineering, biology, physical chemistry and earth science and the afternoons doing laboratory work.

Two days a week they toured industrial sites, such as the Budweiser plant and Kodak.

"It's a wonderful opportunity for students," MCHS science teacher Roger Spears said.

Spears credits the camp for bringing him to Moffat County. He taught at the camp for six years, meeting several district students who encouraged him to come to Craig.

Students interested in attending the camp must have letters of recommendation from their science and English teachers.

They also must be willing to pay a $500 registration fee, though UNC finds sponsors to cover the $4,000 program cost.

Nicodemus, a senior, has an interest in the wide variety of job opportunities in the field.

Becker, a junior, said he's wanted to be a geophysicist since the time he could pronounce the word.

"I heart science," he quipped.

Each of the 35 camp participants was assigned a mentor, and they spent the summer assisting their mentor on that person's research project.

"The research time was the best," Nicodemus said. "There was a lot of time to work with lab equipment we don't have access to here."

Becker's project, simply stated, entailed the study of why lightening struck certain portions of the Appalachian mountains more frequently than others. Not-so-simply his project was titled "Orographic Effects of the Appalachian Mountains on Cloud-to-Ground Lightening Activity; The Appalachian Lightening Jump."

The results, he said, will have applications in the study of meteors.

Similarly, Nicodemus' project was titled "Colorimetric Determination of Ethanol by Means of Cerium IV and Ammonium Nitrate." To the layman, Nicodemus worked to design a laboratory for undergraduates so they could determine the ethanol content of red wine.

The topics are assigned, but based on the students' interests.

Nicodemus intends to pursue her interest of science at Montana State University. Becker has set his sights on the Colorado School of Mines.

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