Duquesne Hosts the Region's Brightest STEM Students at PJAS Competition

Dr. Jeffrey EvanseckDuquesne University will host more than 800 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) students in grades 7-12 from Allegheny and Westmoreland counties for the 80th annual Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science (PJAS) Regional Competition on Feb. 1, 2014.

PJAS is a statewide organization designed to stimulate and promote interest in STEM among students through the development of student research projects.

The 80th meeting marks the first regional PJAS competition to be held at a local university, rather than an area high school. The intent of the Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences is to establish Duquesne as the long–term partner with PJAS and the regional community.

"Hosting the annual PJAS competition on campus further extends Duquesne's presence as a central scientific and educational resource in southwest Pennsylvania," said Dr. Jeffrey Evanseck, professor of chemistry and biochemistry. "This effort leverages a long-standing commitment of the university to provide research and educational opportunities to our community."

Participating students select a project topic from one of the following scientific categories: behavioral psychology, biology, biochemistry, botany, chemistry, computer science, earth and space, ecology, mathematics, microbiology, physics and zoology. Then, they research background information about the topic, formulate a hypothesis, develop an experiment, collect data, analyze data and form a conclusion.

At the regional competition that Duquesne will host, students present their scientific findings to a panel of judges during a 10 minute oral presentation. After the presentation, the judges conduct a 5 minute question and answer session with each student. First, second and third place awards are granted.

Duquesne University faculty will help serve as judges and current students will volunteer in a variety of roles such as timers and technical assistants.

"PJAS is a great opportunity for all STEM students in southwestern Pennsylvania. Our partnership with PJAS documents how research universities can integrate scholarship support for precollege students to pursue a quality higher education degree. Our project also cements relationships between the university, local groups that aid in recruiting underserved student populations, and the local industry in which many graduates have found and will continue to find satisfying and beneficial–to–society STEM careers." said Evanseck.

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