Contemporary research techniques and theory. Group discussion and college-level laboratory experience. Relevant, cutting-edge topics. High school students throughout the region enjoy doing hands-on science at the University of Saint Francis Science Symposium. It’s a day that will make a huge difference in sharpening your skills, not to mention introducing you to students at the university level – and you are invited to participate!

Spaces are limited to only 20 students per topic. (Computer Science is limited to 10 students)

This spring’s symposium, which is being held on Friday March 24, 2017  will enroll a limited number of highly qualified high school sophomore, junior and senior students. Participation is limited so you can work in small groups with our university faculty.

Contact the symposium director by calling (260) 399-7700 x8208, or emailing mbechill@sf.edu, with any questions.

Symposium Topics


Biology – The Bitter Truth – The genetic basis of taste: identifying a single-nucleotide polymorphism

Director: Dr. Greg Wemhoff

Let me open this short discussion with a question for you.  If two parents, both with brown eyes, have a child, do you expect the child to have brown eyes or blue eyes and why?  My guess is you answered brown, because brown is dominant.  There, you’ve just completed a genetic analysis following pedigree and accounted for dominant and recessive gene expression.  As little as thirty years ago our investigations regarding inheritance as well as dominant and recessive gene expression was limited to looking at the physical features of offspring – assessing their phenotype.  Today we can still examine outward features as well as examining the molecular composition of genes.  In our lab experience, we will do just that:  take advantage of the power of molecular investigations to examine dominant and recessive genes.  In the 1930’s a scientist at DuPont, Arthur Fox, made the observation that some people can taste a very bitter substance known as phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) while others cannot.  Later, investigations by Albert Blakeslee demonstrated that the inability to taste PTC was a recessive trait.  Dr. Blakeslee was limited to recording phenotypes.  He did not have the molecular tools we have today.  We will repeat his experiment, and we are going conduct our own investigation.  By sampling our own DNA (we will use cheek cells) we are going to determine at a molecular level whether we are tasters or nontasters of PTC and whether this supports the phenotypic trait we will identify for ourselves.  The laboratory investigation will run the entire day and it will require us to move efficiently to finish within the time we will have together.  Therefore, we will be busy.  We will learn several techniques.  And, I expect it to be fun.  We have a mystery to solve regarding what gene each of us carries.  Come ready to run – the game is afoot.


Environmental Science – Wildlife Ecology, Conservation, and Management

Director: Dr. John Zimmerman

This experience is for students interested in the environment, in working outside as part of a team, and in completing a habitat evaluation.  Activities will include going outside, so dress appropriate for the weather conditions.  The different team members may use GPS, pacing distances on foot, and simple map creation.  Some team members will identify organisms present.  The team will work together to create a written habitat management plan.


Chemistry – Colony Collapse: Why are the Bees Disappearing?

Director: Dr. Jean Elick

The common honeybee (Apis mellifera) performs important roles in agriculture and food production across the world. Much of the food that we eat is a direct result of the diligent and hardworking honeybee. Bees are also a very social creatures. Deep within a hive, bees can be found communicating through dances, rhythmic movements and chemical scents. These chemical messages are called pheromones. Scientists are finding that parasites infecting a hive modify the pheromones found within a hive. This could be one of the factors that is causing colony collapse. In this workshop, we will synthesize several organic pheromones and verify their identity using gas chromatography mass spectroscopy. You will then explore the effect of your synthesized pheromone on biological activity against live insect models


Computer Science – Code Spells: Programming your way to better wizardry! & Networks, switches and routers…oh my!

Director: Mr. Richard Miller

Morning Session: After being dropped into a new world as a wizard, you quickly learn that your list of spells is quite limited.  Your task will be to create new spells by writing code. During this session, we will explore the necessary coding skills required to accomplish a specific task.  You will learn about variables, decision making and loops in this session.  If you can imagine the spell, then it just might be possible to create the spell in this interactive world by writing computer code.  No experience is required, join us to learn coding fundamentals in the 3D animated world of CodeSpells

Afternoon Session: Have you ever wondered how all that information traversing the Internet actually works?  How did that email that I sent my friend in another state actually go from my home to their home?  Computer networking is the glue that keeps information following from one location to another.  If you are trying to learn networking, you will quickly be flooded with terms…network, subnet, switch, IP, router, gateway, routes…which can be confusing at times.  In this session, we will introduce many of these concepts while designing a basic network.  We will then implement that design in a hands-on lab using Cisco equipment.  No experience is required, join us to explore the amazing world of computer networking.