University Hosts Region’s Brightest STEM Students at PJAS Competition

Posted on January 29, 2014

Duquesne will host more than 800 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) students in grades seven through 12 from Allegheny and Westmoreland counties for the 80th annual Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science (PJAS) Regional Competition on Saturday, Feb. 1.

Dr. Jeffrey Evanseck

This marks the first regional PJAS competition to be held at a local university, rather than an area high school. A statewide organization, PJAS is designed to stimulate and promote interest in STEM among students through the development of student research projects.

The Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences hopes to establish Duquesne as the long–term partner with PJAS and the regional community. “Hosting the annual PJAS competition on campus further extends Duquesne’s presence as a central scientific and educational resource in southwest Pennsylvania,” said Dr. Jeffrey Evanseck, professor of chemistry and biochemistry. “This effort leverages a long-standing commitment of the university to provide research and educational opportunities to our community.”

Participating students select a project topic from one of the following scientific categories: behavioral psychology, biology, biochemistry, botany, chemistry, computer science, earth and space, ecology, mathematics, microbiology, physics and zoology. They then research background information about the topic, formulate a hypothesis, develop an experiment, collect data, analyze data and form a conclusion.

At the regional competition, students present their scientific findings to a panel of judges during a 10-minute oral presentation. The judges conduct a five-minute question-and-answer session with each student. First, second and third place awards are granted.

University faculty will help serve as judges and Duquesne students will volunteer in a variety of roles, including timers and technical assistants, at the competition.

“PJAS is a great opportunity for all STEM students in southwestern Pennsylvania,” said Evanseck. “Our partnership with PJAS documents how research universities can integrate scholarship support for precollege students to pursue a quality higher education degree. Our project also cements relationships among the University, local groups that aid in recruiting underserved student populations and the local industry in which many graduates have found and will continue to find satisfying and beneficial-to-society STEM careers.”

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