SHS student, teacher attend Oak Ridge summer program

Starkville High School senior A'Shauna Howell, center left, and former SHS biology teacher Michael Adam, center right, attended the Appalachian Regional Commission's summer program at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. The opportunity to Howell came through the Jobs for Mississippi Graduates program at SHS. Also pictured are Howell's grandmother, Ella Isaac, far left and SHS JMG job specialist Debbie Thomas.(Photo by Charlie Benton, SDN)

Staff Writer

A Starkville High School student and former teacher have returned from the science adventure of a lifetime.

Senior A’Shauna Howell and former SHS biology teacher Michael Adam were among a group selected by the Appalachian Regional Commission to attend a two-week summer program at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee. The opportunity came to Howell through the Jobs for Mississippi Graduates program at SHS. Howell then selected Adam to accompany her.

Both Howell and Adam were given the opportunity to learn and be involved in scientific research at Oak Ridge. Attendees came from parts of Mississippi and a dozen other Appalachian states including Alabama,Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, North Carolina,Ohio, Pennsylvania,South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia and Virginia.

“It was honestly the most fun experience that I’ve had as far as being able to work with the laboratory and as far as being there and learning,getting to work with the laboratory, it gives you a totally different look of life,” Howell said.

Howell, who hopes to someday become a doctor, said she thought the program was a good primer for college life.

“My group particularly worked with microcontrols to make an alarm system, so we were in and out of the lab, dealing with an (electrical prototyping) board called Arduino,” Howell said.

She said the group she worked closely with had remained friends after the camp ended.

“We actually really got to bond,” Howell said. “Most of our time was spent in a four desk office all together, so that was pretty fun.

Participants also got to make trips to downtown Knoxville, Tennessee, an aquarium, a zipline and other cultural destinations.

Adam described the research he got to participate in, working with biology teachers from across the region.

“It’s almost mind-blowing, the many different facets of science that they're doing there, and that’s just what they were telling us,” Adam said.

Adam’s group worked on a project in the one-of-a-kind cytogenetics biodosemetry lab at Oak Ridge.

“What they do is they study the effects of radiation on human chromosomes, which then, of course, leads to cancers and other types of diseases,” Adam said. “My group was able to work in original research, so we did things
that hadn’t been done yet. We looked at high radiation doses that hadn’t been looked at yet, and studied the effect of a certain chemical on the process.”

Adam said the trip to Oak Ridge was the most amazing opportunity he had in his teaching career. He also said it was a good opportunity for Howell due to the connections she was able to make for her future.

“Those people can help put her in contact with other people at ORNL that do work in areas she’ll be wanting to get into,” Adam said.

Starkville High School JMG job specialist Debbie Thomas also spoke to the importance of the Oak Ridge program for Howell.

“I am at a loss for words,” Thomas said. “I am so pleased that both A’Shauna and Mr. Adam had this experience, especially for A’Shauna to have this kind of exposure in the area that she’s interested in, which is medicine. I think that this has just given her the platform that she will just rise, rise, rise and become great.”

Thomas also acknowledged Adam’s service on the SHS JMG board, which he will continue even as he moves into a new position.