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Want to meet students who are a lot smarter than you and I? Then meet these semifinalists in the Intel Science Talent Search.

Four students from Hume-Fogg Magnet High and three from Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet High won the distinction for their work done through the School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt.

Zach Anderson (Hume-Fogg) completed his project with Jason Valentine, Ph. D. in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. His project was "Reflection and Transmission Measurements at Variable Incidence Angles of a Zero Index Metamaterial." Zach was also recognized as a Siemens Semifinalist for this research.

Abhinav Goyal (Hume-Fogg) completed his project with Qi Zhang, Ph. D. in the Department of Pharmacology. His project was “Culturing of Neurons on Graphene Transistors for High Resolution Scanning of Processes.” Abhi was also recently recognized as a Siemens Semifinalist for this research.

Aditya Gudibanda (Hume-Fogg) completed his project with Jens Meiler in the Department of Chemistry. His project was “The implementation of paired descriptor functions to improve quantitative structure activity relationship models from drug discovery.”

Busra Gungor (Martin Luther King Jr.) completed her project with Hal Moses, M.D. in the Department of Cancer Biology. Her project was “Uncovering the Role of TGFβ and BMP in Triple Negative Breast Cancer Stem Cells.” Busra was also recently recognized as a Siemens Semifinalist for this research.

Melissa Guo (Martin Luther King Jr.) completed her project with Nilanjan Sarkar, Ph. D. in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Her project was “Interfacing of Kinect Motion sensor and NAO Humanoid Robot.”

Meera Patel (Hume-Fogg) completed her project with Richard Peek, M. D. in the Department of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology. Her project was “Helicobacter pylori alters the tight junction-regulating adhesion protein BVES and promotes epithelial-mesenchymal transition in a nontumorigenic murine gastric epithelial cell line (MGEC).”

Jenny Zheng (Martin Luther King Jr.) completed her project with David Wasserman, Ph. D. in the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics. Her project was “Interaction of integrin and insulin actions in the insulin resistant liver."

Each student won a $1,000 prize with a matching prize given to their schools.

Read more about the award.

Apply for the School for Science & Math at Vanderbilt


Bottle rockets may be child’s play to some, but to NASA and students at Bailey Middle Magnet, Cora Howe Middle and Wright Middle schools, they are serious business. The space agency has awarded its 2012 Educational Engagement Award to a combined team of Vanderbilt University engineering and education students for their work with about 500 students in the three Metro schools.

Nine mechanical engineering students in the Aerospace Club worked with six students in Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development to develop lesson plans for the middle schoolers. The Peabody students teach in Metro Schools as part of their teacher licensure requirements.

Together, the Vanderbilt students taught teams of Metro students scientific and engineering concepts and then worked to design, construct and launch the rockets. Metro students calculated their rockets’ altitudes based on the rockets’ time aloft and the group from each school with the highest-flying rocket earned a visit to Vanderbilt, including a tour of engineering laboratories, workshops, project demonstrations and lunch.

Bailey STEM Magnet Middle School is part of a K-12 science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) continuum that includes Hattie Cotton STEM Magnet Elementary, Isaac Litton Middle, and Stratford STEM Magnet High School.

This post is based on an online article “Engineering, Peabody effort lands NASA STEM outreach award”
www.news.vanderbilt.edu. Posted with appreciation to Brenda Ellis and Vanderbilt University.


Congrats to Jyotishka and Shalom, and a special thanks to the School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt for sharing the following news release with us!

Students at the School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt land first publication

Two members of the School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt will be seeing their names in print as lead authors on their first scientific manuscript.

Jyotishka Biswas and Shalom Rottman-Yang, seniors at the School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt have just reached a milestone that most scientists don’t achieve until they are well into graduate school. . . having chief authorship on their first publication in a scientific journal.

In most universities, this accomplishment is a fundamental requirement in order to be awarded a PhD in a scientific discipline. But, as they are finishing up their senior years in high school, Jyotishka and Shalom have their sights set on a much more humble experience of starting their undergraduate education. Jyotishka has his sights set on Georgia Tech and Shalom is looking to head off to Princeton next fall. Both have stated that they would like to continue working in a lab during their undergraduate years.

Their work which was recently published in the Journal of Electrochemical Society http://dx.doi.org/10.1149/2.095204jes represents a substantial contribution to the electrophoretic deposition research community on par with the contributions that have been made by other professional scientists in the community. Their findings could facilitate the production of intact, but ultra-thin carbon nanotube films at an industrial scale, which could have implications in applications, such as flexible electronics, ballistic protection, and ultra-light fabrics.

In addition to their time spent at Hume-Fogg High School, Jyotiska and Shalom have been coming to Vanderbilt University for one day a week for the last four years. The School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt (SSMV) is a joint venture between Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) and offers high school students an interdisciplinary, research-centered learning experience that culminates with students entering laboratories of Vanderbilt Researchers for a year-long internship.

Students write up these projects to submit to national competitions such as the Siemens Science Competition where Jyotiska and Shalom were recently named regional finalists.

The SSMV has received funding from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, the Nashville Alliance for Public Education, the National Center for Research Resources of the National Institutes of Health, and other generous donors.




Researchers condemn shoddy methods, analysis of test data investigation

UPDATE (3/27/12): The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has removed any references to Two Rivers Middle School from the original story.

UPDATE (3/26/12): The Washington Post agrees with our objections

The Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) has hired a marketing firm to tout its investigative story on testing data from several large school systems despite being informed of numerous flaws in its methodology and analysis. The story is scheduled to appear in this Sunday’s edition and, while Metro Schools has not seen the story, the paper shared its data and methodology earlier this week in its first contact with the district. The information provided is questionable and shows a complete lack of knowledge or understanding of the system and students. Other school systems contacted have voiced similar protests of the data.

“We looked at the data provided, along with the methodology for their analysis, and immediately identified numerous flaws, as did an independent statistician from Vanderbilt,” said Dr. Paul Changas, executive director for Research, Assessment and Evaluation for Metro Schools. Dr. Changas was the first statistician hired by the State of Tennessee to assess student achievement results.

The AJC has based its analysis of school testing data from the nation’s largest school districts by “flagging” any movement in student achievement that is extremely high or low. Metro Schools’ has provided detailed information to the AJC outlining the serious flaws in the information provided to the district and in the methods they used to calculate their data. Some of those include:

  • The AJC analysis assumes that students in one grade level at a school one year are the same students that were there the previous year in the previous grade.

    • Metro Schools has mobility rates between 35%-40%.

    • Zoning changes have impacted student enrollment.

    • A significant number of ALCs (Alternative Learning Centers) and special schools (including homebound) are flagged in the data; these schools often have very fluid populations - ALC populations have 100% annual turnover.

  • This AJC information flags schools with unusually high numbers of discrepancies from predicted scores – both high and low.

    • 77% of the cases flagged in MNPS were due to low performance (significantly below predictions).

    • The negative scores we saw were not part of a pattern of high gain one year followed by significant loss the next (as would be expected if there were improper testing procedures).

    • There was not a single case of unusually high gains flagged for 2011.

  • The AJC data we received had obvious errors, including children who were absent from testing being assigned a “zero” rather than being excluded from the analysis - resulting in average scores that were below the minimum score possible.

  • Tennessee adopted much more difficult academic standards in 2010, resulting in a significant decrease in student test scores.

  • Metro Schools has the highest population of English Learners in the state, with approximately 1 in 4 of our students coming from non-English Language Backgrounds. National data show EL students typically make among the largest gains from year to year as they learn the English language; several of the schools flagged for positive gains have high EL populations.

  • The Tennessee Value Added Assessment System (TVAAS) uses much more sophisticated analytical techniques (Henderson’s mixed model methodology) and follows actual cohorts of students to analyze gains of teachers, schools, and districts and TVAAS results have typically been comparable to statewide trends for several years.

Read a detailed list of issues with AJC's methods

Other information provided to the AJC included information from Dr. Dale Ballou, associate professor of Public Policy and Education with Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education, who has reviewed Metro Schools’ testing results for a number of years. Dr. Ballou has reviewed the data provided and found some statistically impossible anomalies. In addition, Dr. Ballou has been involved with an independent analysis of test gains of MNPS middle school math teachers over three years (2006-07 through 2008-09). This review, conducted by Dr. Brian Jacob of the University of Chicago on behalf of Vanderbilt University, did not show any unusual or suspicious patterns.

  • The analysis was conducted as part of the Project on Incentives in Teaching (POINT) study, to determine whether tying significant financial incentives for teachers (up to $15,000 per teacher per year) to student achievement made an impact.

  • The analysis conducted by Dr. Jacob was specifically to determine if evidence existed of invalid test scores. None was found.

“We are shocked and disappointed the Atlanta Journal Constitution has included our district in their investigative report to be released Sunday, despite these and a number of additional flaws in their analysis brought to their attention prior to its publication,” said Director of Schools Dr. Jesse Register. “Their lack of understanding of our schools and district is reflected in the data we have seen.”

Michael Casserly, executive director for the Council of the Great City Schools, a national organization representing large school districts, has also criticized the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s approach, saying, “These are serious charges that should be supported by the strongest evidence. That strong evidence has not been provided.”

Read the full statement from the Council of Great City Schools


Several Metro high school students have been selected to attend an all expenses paid trip to the 2nd annual USA Science and Engineering Festival, which will feature more than 3,000 fun, interactive exhibits, stage shows and author presentations.  Alex C. and Emma R., sophomores at Hillsboro High, Andrew C. and Dorwin W., students at Stratford STEM Magnet High, Susanna P., a student at MLK and the School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt, and Nhung H., a student at Overton High and the School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt, were selected to present during the Final Expo.

The festival will be held in Washington D.C., April 28-29. Students were selected based on essays exploring the topic of banning water bottles on college campuses. The students were selected to attend the science festival based on essays, grades and behavior.

At the festival, the team of students will work together to provide hands-on activities at one of the Vanderbilt University booths. Students will assist participants in dissecting a sea bird bolus and identifying the plastics found inside. Students will also be able to visit the other booths and the college fair. 

And what would a trip to the Capitol be without a lesson on history! The students will have some free time to visit area attractions. Congratulations!


Three MNPS students are gaining national attention for their mad science skills! Emily Alsentzer, a student at Hume-Fogg, and Jasmine Kelly and Ben Gu, students at MLK, entered the competition through their enrollment with the School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt. All are now seniors in the four-year research-based program. Check out the news release below.


It's not every day high school students get to study at Vanderbilt University, alongside some of the nation's top researchers and scientists. Now through Feb. 10, Metro Schools' current 8th graders can vie for a spot in The School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt's Class of 2016.

Students enrolled in the school will attend their regular high school four days of the week. The fifth day, they will study at Vanderbilt. Students who complete the four-year program will graduate high school with an additional seven honors science elective credits.

SSMV offers high school students an interdisciplinary, research-centered learning experience. For more information or to apply, visit the School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt here.

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