The Gatton Academy's News Archive
Gatton Student Earns Invitation to Present at National Science Meeting
- Friday, January 6th, 2023
A Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science and Greenwood High School senior has been invited to represent Kentucky at the American Junior Academy of Science after impressing scientists with her research presentation.
Sierra Durkee presented her research at the Kentucky Junior Academy of Science meeting held in November at Morehead State University. Scientists who rated presentations placed Durkee in the top tier of students, giving her the opportunity to serve as a Kentucky delegate (along with six other Kentucky students) at the American Junior Academy of Science meeting in Washington D.C. in March 2023.
Attending the Washington D.C. meeting gives students opportunities to share their research with others in the national academy, receive feedback and encouragement from scientists, and become inductees in the American Junior Academy of Science.
Durkee’s research focuses on "Identification of toxic bacteriophage gene products" and is supervised by Western Kentucky University Department of Biology’s Dr. Rodney King.
King stated, “Sierra [Durkee] came to my lab without prior experience, but she quickly learned the techniques needed to move her research forward. I am proud of Sierra for the AJAS recognition, but I’m more proud of the dedication she demonstrated as she prepared for her first scientific conference. The opportunity to represent WKU at the national meeting of the Junior Academy of Science is a well-deserved honor.”
Durkee plans to continue studying biology and pursue a medical pathway in pathology. During her time at the Gatton Academy, Durkee has spent significant time completing supervised student research, actively participating in clubs and organizations such as the Kentucky Youth Association and Gatton Academy Medical Association, and serving as a Gatton Academy Community Developer.
“Having the opportunities to work in the lab and complete this research has really helped me find what I am interested and where I want to head in life,” shared Durkee. “I’m so appreciative of Dr. King and The Gatton Academy for making all of this possible.”
Giving students opportunities to pursue their scientific curiosity can have a profound effect, said Melony Stambaugh, Director of the Kentucky Junior Academy of Science.
“Each year, I am amazed at the research being conducted by high school students here in Kentucky,” said Stambaugh. “The annual meeting of the Kentucky Academy of Science is a great place to bring together the KJAS students as early as middle school to begin creating those connections which allow the students to see a wide variety of people doing all types of research. These connections expand the students from the classroom into futures they may never have ever imagined. Seeing the continuum from middle school and high school students to undergraduate, graduate, and professional scientists is rewarding and a valuable experience.”
The Kentucky Academy of Science is raising money to send the seven eligible students to the Washington D.C. meeting. To learn more or donate, please go online to: givegab.com/campaigns/scientific-discovery.
About The Gatton Academy: Established in 2007, The Gatton Academy is Kentucky’s first residential two-year program for gifted and talented juniors and seniors. The Gatton Academy’s students enroll as juniors and are full-time WKU students pursuing their interests in advanced science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The Gatton Academy is a recipient of the 2022 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award from Insight Into Diversity Magazine and the Innovation Partnership Award from the National Consortium for Secondary STEM Schools.
About the Kentucky Academy of Science: The Kentucky Academy of Science is a membership-based scientific society with thousands of members across the Commonwealth and fosters scientific discovery and understanding in Kentucky. To learn more, visit kyscience.org.