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School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences Providing Summer Learning Opportunities for High School Students through Army Grant

Thu, 05/06/2021 - 13:34pm | By: David Tisdale

Three Mississippi high school students will have the opportunity to work with some of The University of Southern Mississippi’s (USM) leading researchers in a laboratory setting this summer on the Hattiesburg campus with the support of a grant designed to engage, inspire and attract the next generation of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) talent.

An Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP) Research and Engineering Apprenticeship Program (REAP) grant awarded to the USM School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences will provide students from underserved or underrepresented backgrounds the chance to conduct an individual research project in the university’s laboratories alongside a professional STEM mentor and researcher.

Participating students will earn a stipend and have use of an office on campus while working on a project that contributes to the advancement of science, primarily in mathematics. At the end of the summer, the student will describe the project in an abstract, and possibly present the results at a professional conference or even publish them in a journal.

Students taking part in the program at USM include:

  • Carson Hill of Brandon High School
  • Darreneka Howard of Raymond High School
  • DeAndrea Barnes of Hattiesburg High School

This summer’s REAP program at USM is a collaboration between Dr. John Perry, associate professor and program director in the School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences and his colleagues Dr. Anna Wan, assistant professor and founder of Eagle Maker Hub, and Dr. Karen Kohl at USM Gulf Park Campus in Long Beach, with additional support from Dr. Bernd Schröder, director of the School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences.

“We’re pleased at the opportunity to host these students at USM, to learn from us and to contribute to our work,” Dr. Perry said. “We’re also grateful to the Army for their generosity, for seeing our potential as a host site, and for recognizing that Americans from less wealthy, highly rural areas of the country are among the most underserved and underrepresented in populations in STEM.”

Dr. Perry noted that the students choose a research project after they’ve received some background in several projects conducted in the labs. The REAP proposal hypothesizes projects in areas that include combinatorial games such as Nim, where non-standard arithmetic reveals a winning strategy; digital fabrication with computer-assisted design (CAD) to create original designs to illuminate mathematical or scientific concepts; or embedded coding using Microbits, Arduinos, and Rasbperry Pis. However, motivated students may choose a completely different project.

“One of our students is very interested in mathematical physics, so he may end up working on that,” Dr. Perry said.

The School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences is located in the USM College of Arts and Sciences. For information about the school, including the work of its faculty and the undergraduate and graduate degree programs it offers, visit