Career High School's Electron Microscope Focuses on the Future

Students at Hill Regional Career Magnet High School in New Haven are learning science with the only microscope of its kind to be found in a public school in Connecticut.

Students at Hill Regional Career Magnet High School in New Haven are learning science with the only microscope of its kind to be found in a public school in Connecticut.

The Zeiss EM109 electron microscope, worth more than some city schools’ annual budgets, was donated by Yale under the auspices of Barry Piekos, supervisor of Yale’s electron microscope lab. The microscope is maintained by Joseph Antol, an independent specialist who also helps train teachers and students in the use of the microscope.

Twenty-five students use the microscope regularly and nearly 100 have access to it for specific projects about “inner space,” said Angel Tangney, who teaches an advanced placement biology class at the school. In a show of regional cooperation in education, students in a class taught by Chris Walker at Madison’s Daniel Hand High School visited Career High School last October and used the microscope in their projects, Tangney added. She said she hopes to include more schools outside of New Haven in the future.

Students place viewing samples, called grids, under the microscope, observe them and note their characteristics. They also record their view of the grids in a snapshot that can be printed for archiving and further study. Later on, they can download comparison grids from special Internet sites that feature projects for the electron microscope.

Tangney said the benefits to students who use the microscope are invaluable. “The kids are actually doing the science that you read in books or see on the Internet or read about in journals or newspapers,” she said. “They are viewing it themselves. They are using a piece of equipment that would normally be out of their reach in a high school. Scientists in research still rely on this same type of microscope being used by our students.” Tangney noted that students come in on Saturdays on their own time to use the microscope and conduct research.

“There is a wonderful atmosphere in this school,” said Claudia R. Merson, coordinator of the public school partnership, one of Yale’s New Haven Initiatives sponsored by the Office of New Haven and State Affairs. “It has an innovative curriculum, dedicated teachers, hard-working students and fantastic equipment. When you look into the classrooms here, you truly get the sense that you are looking at the next generation of scientists.”

Merson also noted that 40 students from Career High School and other city schools regularly attend classes at Yale University in another component of the public school partnership sponsored by Yale.

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