Tag Archives: research

Research Competition (with Scholarships!) for High School Students

Looking for ways to support your high-achieving students in math and the sciences? The Junior Sciences and Humanities Symposium (JSHS), a prestigious national science competition, offers substantial opportunities for scholarships. At the regional competition here in Iowa City, students can win up to $2,750, and finalists can go on to win an additional $12,000 at the National JSHS in April. Last year, Iowa high school students took home a 1st place win at Nationals and more than $20,000 in scholarships!

To compete, Iowa high school students must submit papers describing original research in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) by January 14th, 2019, so there’s still time to get projects started. The Iowa Regional JSHS competition will be hosted by the Belin-Blank Center on March 4th and 5th, and top presenters will earn scholarships go on to compete at the National JSHS competition!

Regardless of whether submissions are selected for competition, we invite all interested students and teachers to attend the regional event. Those who attend can participate in laboratory tours, informational sessions for students and teachers, and learn about Iowa students’ research. This is a great way to introduce students to the idea of doing their own original research and prepare them for future projects. It also gives them an opportunity to see the kinds of world-class resources and ideas that are available to students on a university campus. Students and teachers alike leave feeling inspired every year!

The first five students in attendance from each district attend free of charge, including overnight lodging and some meals, while the fee for each student beyond the first five comes to just $25.

For details, please visit our website at www.belinblank.org/JSHS, and don’t hesitate to contact us at JSHS@belinblank.org if you have any questions.


Gifted Education Awareness Month: Academic Acceleration

This month, we’re bringing back some of our most popular blog posts to celebrate Gifted Education Awareness Month! Today, Dr. Ann Shoplik, Administrator for the Acceleration Institute, explains why it’s so important to advocate for academic acceleration! “Acceleration” can be an intimidating word for some, but did you know that there are at least 20 different forms of academic acceleration?

20 Forms of Acceleration

The word “acceleration” actually refers to over twenty different educational interventions! (Source: A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students*)


Why am I an Advocate for Academic Acceleration?

The short answer to this question is that I am tired of gifted students being under-challenged in school. They need the intellectual stimulation that comes from rigorous courses taught at a reasonably advanced level, and acceleration can provide that stimulation. The longer answer is, I am familiar with the research. No educational option for gifted students has the research support that academic acceleration has. In other words, the research is clear and unambiguous: Acceleration works. Gifted students benefit from acceleration. Gifted students are not negatively impacted socially if they are moved up a grade or advanced in a particular subject. Gifted students who accelerate turn out to be higher-achieving, higher-paid adults. In other words, the effects of acceleration are positive, short-term, and long-term.  So why wouldn’t I be an advocate for academic acceleration?

Now that we have the information that is summarized so clearly and succinctly in the comprehensive 2015 publication, A Nation Empowered, it’s time to put that information to work.  There are at least 20 different types of acceleration, including grade-skipping, subject matter acceleration, distance learning, and dual enrollment in high school and college. There are many forms of acceleration, and that means that we can tailor accelerative opportunities to the needs of individual gifted students. Acceleration means allowing gifted students to move ahead in school, at a pace appropriate to their needs. Acceleration can be implemented individually, in small groups, and in large groups.  Each type of acceleration can be used to match the level, complexity, and pace of the curriculum to the readiness and motivation of the student.

Educators and parents do not have to be afraid of implementing acceleration. Tools are available to help them make well-informed decisions. These tools include the book already mentioned, A Nation Empowered, and they also include the Iowa Acceleration Scale (developed to help the team consider all aspects of acceleration, including academic development, social development, physical development, and school and parental support for the decision), IDEAL Solutions (developed to assist educators and parents as they consider subject matter acceleration in STEM subjects), and university-based talent search programs, which help identify students and give them challenging courses they can take in the summer or via online learning opportunities.

If you are interested in advocating for acceleration for an individual student or you’re attempting to change policies in your school or district, consider starting with the information found at the Acceleration Institute website. It includes the tools already mentioned in this article, and many more. Don’t miss the PowerPoint presentation on acceleration, which you can download and share with other educators and families.

We have the research and we have the tools to help us make good decisions about implementing acceleration for academically talented students. Now, we need the courage to act.

Originally posted by Ann Lupkowski Shoplik on March 22, 2016

*Southern, W.T. and Jones, E.D. (2015) Types of Acceleration: Dimensions and Issues. In S.A. Assouline, N. Colangelo, J. VanTassel-Baska, and A. Lupkowski-Shoplik (Eds.), A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students (pp. 9-18). Cedar Rapids, IA: Colorweb Printing

SSTP 2018 is in the Books!

Thursday, July 26th saw the close of the 2018 Secondary Student Training Program at the University of Iowa.

To celebrate a summer of exceptional research, participating students concluded their work by presenting their research in a final poster competition. Represented among the presentations was research from the College of Engineering, the Carver College of Medicine, and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, to name just a few. Congratulations to all students who presented!

A special congratulations goes out to this year’s valedictory class speaker, Iowa’s own Riley Dejohn, who spent his summer researching physical chemistry in Dr. Alexei Tivanski’s group at the University. Also featured was special guest speaker Dr. Hanna Stevens, professor of psychology and veteran SSTP mentor, who shared her insights gleaned over years of pedagogy during the final banquet dinner.

Thank you to our guest judges from Integrated DNA Technologies, without whom the final poster competition would not have been possible, and to the 2018 SSTP mentors at the University, for all of the guidance and leadership they gave to each student. We know that you have made a huge difference in the lives and careers of these future researchers!

SSTP Group 2018-5

Congratulations, JSHS Student Researchers!

Last month, students from across the state of Iowa attended the Iowa Regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS), hosted by the Belin-Blank Center at the Marriott Hotel in Coralville, Iowa.

JSHS is a collaborative effort with the research arm of the Department of Defense and is designed to challenge, engage, and publically recognize high school students conducting scientific research in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM).  JSHS aims to prepare and support students to contribute as future scientists and engineers – conducting STEM research on behalf of, or directly for, the Department of Defense, the Federal research laboratories, or for the greater good in advancing the nation’s scientific and technological progress.

Students completed an original research project and submitted a research paper to the regional competition. The authors of the top 18 papers were invited to compete for scholarships and recognition by presenting their results before a panel of judges and an audience of their peers.  Students also toured various labs and facilities at the University of Iowa to hear about cutting edge research, potential career paths, and student opportunities.

JSHS 2018-12.jpg

After an intensive day of presentations, the judges had the difficult task of selecting five finalists based on their research papers and presentations:

1st place: Megan Ertl (Beckman Catholic High School) – “Quantification of Muscle Accelerations to Interpret Individual Fatigue as an Industrial Application

2nd place: Cheryl Blackmer (Ballard  High School) – “Development of a LAMP Assay for the Detection of Powassan Virus”

3rd place: Pranav Chhaliyil (Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment) –  “Metagenomics Analysis of Bedtime Oral Cleaning by the Novel GIFT Method, Shows a Reduction in Dental-Damaging Bacteria”

4th place: Aaron Wills (Central Lee High School) – “Engineered Environmental Containment: “Using Lemna minor L. to Reduce Nitrate Levels in Aquatic Environments”

5th place: Brianna Cole (Valley High School) – “Cumulative Effects of Recurrent Amygdala Kindled Seizures on Respiratory Function”

JSHS 2018-50

Additional presenters, who were winners by virtue of having their papers accepted, included Allison Brasch (Waterloo West High School), Mason Burlage (Beckman Catholic High School), Ava Depping (Madrid High School), Serenity Haynes (Central Lee High School), Sean Kluesner (Beckman Catholic High School), Pearl Krieger Coble (Winfield-Mt. Union High School), Kayla Livesay (Van Buren High School), Kathryn McCarthy (Sioux City East High School), Evylin Merydith (Keokuk High School), Tyler Montgomery (Kennedy High School), Elizabeth Smith (Waterloo West High School), Laura Stowater (Algona High School), Shelby Westhoff (Beckman Catholic High School).

The top five finalists will attend an expense-paid trip to the JSHS National Symposium next month in Hunt Valley, MD to present their research and compete for additional prizes.

To see all the fun we had, including tours of the IIHR – Hydroscience & Engineering, Iowa Flood Center, and Additive Manufacturing-Integrated Product Realization Laboratory (AMPRL) in the University of Iowa Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering, check out our full photo album! Congratulations to all, and good luck at Nationals!


Curious About Research?

Do you know academically talented teenagers who show curiosity or promise in doing research, or are you one yourself? Then you need to know about the Perry Research Scholars Institute (PRSI), where students can experience lots of different types of research happening at a top public research university!

Students in grades 8–10 (academic year 2017–2018) may apply for the Perry Research Scholars Institute (PRSI), a two-week residential summer academic program at the University of Iowa’s Belin-Blank Center.

At PRSI, students will participate in seminars with university faculty, tour their research facilities, and study their publications. While students will spend some of their time learning advanced lab techniques, they will not be conducting original research in this program. Rather, they will be granted an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at research while it’s happening, in fields such as anthropology, business, education, engineering, medicine, psychology, sustainability, and more. This “backstage pass” approach will help students develop an understanding of research that extends well beyond bench science.

During off-hours, students can expect plenty of fun getting to know other bright teenagers who are also interested in research! They will even experience an authentic taste of life on a university campus, complete with two weeks of living with a roommate in the residence halls. Evening activities include special seminars, off-campus field trips, and cultural and recreational activities. Social events are scheduled, and students will be granted access to the University of Iowa libraries, computer facilities and study areas.

Don’t miss this unique chance to see how research works, up close and personal; experience college life for two weeks; and meet new friends with similar abilities and interests! Applications are open through March 16 at www.belinblank.org/students. The program will run from July 8–July 20, 2018.

summer program students looking at university science research

Looking for more research programs for high school students? Check out the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) and the Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP). PRSI is great preparation for programs like these!


Responding to the Arguments Against Acceleration (Again)

1 Acceleration works green

Question from a gifted coordinator:

My principal found 3 articles indicating that students in mixed ability math courses perform well in later math courses. She is using these as an argument NOT to group our math-talented students for mathematics. How do I respond?

My response:  

I would like to respond with an entire body of research evidence rather than selecting a handful of studies to cite. Educational researchers use a technique called “meta-analysis,” in which they look at hundreds of studies, thousands of students, and many different school situations to address important questions such as this one. Some of those meta-analyses are listed below.  My focus is on what is best for high-ability students.

An important question to ask is, “How do accelerated high-ability students compare to non-accelerated students who are equally able?”  In other words, what is lost if we do not allow academically talented students to move ahead as their abilities and motivations would allow?

What we have learned from meta-analyses is that acceleration is a positive, powerful option for talented students. Many of the research studies focused on math-talented students, but many others include accelerated students who are talented in other subjects:

  • These students benefit in significant ways from participating in classes that challenge them at the right level.
  • Math-talented students who are allowed to accelerate retain what they have learned, tend to continue pursuing studies in math and science, pursue more challenging majors and more prestigious careers, and earn more money than comparison students.
  • Accelerated students also tend to generate more creative products such as patents and research articles than non-accelerated equally-able peers.
  • Gifted students are not negatively impacted socially if they are moved up a grade or advanced in a particular subject.
  • Gifted students who accelerate turn out to be higher-achieving, higher-paid adults. In other words, the effects of acceleration are positive, short-term, and long-term.

In my opinion, not allowing academically talented students to move ahead appropriately is educational malpractice, because the evidence is so clear and so positive supporting acceleration.


Assouline, S. G., Colangelo, N., VanTassel-Baska, J., & Lupkowski-Shoplik, A. (2015). A nation empowered: Evidence trumps the excuses holding back America’s brightest students. Iowa City, IA: Connie Belin and Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development. www.nationempowered.org

Assouline, S. G., & Lupkowski-Shoplik, A. (2011). Developing Math Talent (2nd ed.). Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.

Colangelo, N., Assouline, S. G., & Gross, M. U. (2004). A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students. The Templeton National Report on Acceleration. Volume 2. Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development (NJ1).  See especially the chapter by James Kulik: http://www.accelerationinstitute.org/Nation_Deceived/ND_v2.pdf#page=22

Kulik, J. A., & Kulik, C. L. C. (1984). Effects of accelerated instruction on students. Review of educational research, 54(3), 409-425.

Rogers, K. B. (2007). Lessons learned about educating the gifted and talented: A synthesis of the research on educational practice. Gifted child quarterly, 51(4), 382-396.

See www.accelerationinstitute.org for more evidence.

Talent searches help us to learn more about academically talented students and to decide who might benefit from acceleration:  https://www2.education.uiowa.edu/belinblank/students/bests/whybests.aspx


What Do Muscle Fatigue, Photoluminescence, and New Zealand Freshwater Snails Have in Common?

They are all topics that our Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP) students researched!  Thirty-one high school students spent six weeks on the University of Iowa campus in labs in their area of interest.

The Belin-Blank Center hosted a poster session last week, but you can still view their posters online.