A Proviso East High School senior spent her summer studying the atomic makeup of precious metals.
Jenny Ramirez, 17, spent much of her summer working with the Killelea Group at Loyola University in Chicago as part of the American Chemical Society’s Project SEED Research Program. Led by Dr. Dan Killelea, an assistant professor in Loyola University’s chemistry department, Jenny and college students in the program studied the dynamics of reactive atomic species on and beneath metal surfaces. They accomplished this by using the university’s ultra high vacuum scanning tunneling microscope to take photos of individual atoms in metals such as nickel and silver.
Jenny said that she applied for the program, which awarded Kristen Alanis, a 2013 Proviso East graduate and Project SEED participant, a scholarship of up to $5,000 last spring, at the urging of Mr. Glenn Lid, a Proviso East science teacher. She wrote in her application essay that she was motivated to study hard by Mr. Lid and her family.
"I said I wanted to do something in chemistry," she said. "I’m going to be the first one in my family to graduate high school and go to college. I’m also the first one to major in a science."
At Loyola, Jenny said that she helped in taking the photos of the atoms, pouring in liquid nitrogen to help get better quality images and to cool down the microscope. She said that she was impressed with the technology.
"I have a better understanding of chemistry and new technology that I never knew existed," said Jenny, who is taking advanced placement chemistry this year. "It made me realize I want to get more involved in chemistry."
Mr. Lid said that Jenny, who is leaning toward majoring in chemistry at Loyola next year, is the fifth Proviso East student to participate in the Project SEED program.
"She’s a very conscientious student," Mr. Lid said. "She’s serious about going into a career that involves science. I knew she had the work ethic to travel to Loyola and work an eight-hour day. She stands out in a classroom."
Mr. Tony Valente, principal at Proviso East, said that students such as Jenny are increasingly applying themselves to programs that will help them grow academically.
"We have many students who are willing to put in the work to expand their horizons and learn about what is out there," Mr. Valente said. "Jenny Ramirez is a serious student who continues to shine in the classroom."