LOMBARD — Two students at Glenbard East High School have found metal content in dandelions they picked on the school's campus, and now they want to know why.
It's all part of a project Wendi Guraziu and Jourdan Ewoldt are completing through their participation in the Argonne National Laboratory's Exemplary Student Research Program.
This is the second year Argonne has run the program, and the first that Glenbard East has had a team participating. Guraziu and Ewoldt are being assisted by Karen Beardsley, a biology teacher at the school, along with a staff scientists from Argonne.
Beardsley's children, Tom and Kelly, are seniors at Wheaton North High School and also work in the group because their school didn't offer the program.
"We're doing real research and got to go to Argonne and use the equipment," said Ewoldt, a senior. "Eventually when we're done with analyzing the data, we'll get to present a poster to real scientists."
In May, the group will visit Argonne to present a scientific poster on their findings.
In the project, students are working in a similar structure to what a scientist does when he or she wants to use the equipment at Argonne. In the fall, the group prepared a proposal and had to get their project approved by Argonne's oversight committee.
During the review, they were with scientists from France and China.
On Feb. 20, Guraziu, Ewoldt and the Beardsleys took a trip Argonne to spend the day running tests using the lab's synchrotron to carry out their project.
For this project, the group used the laser beam technology of the synchrotron to identify the metal content in 26 dandelion samples from around the school's campus. The project they developed had a focus on the effect humans have on the environment.
Right now they're analyzing their data and determining what metals are present in the plant samples from different locations around Glenbard East, and later they'll analyze the data, look for patterns and develop hypotheses on why certain metals are in certain places, said Guraziu, a junior.
Guraziu's favorite part about the project?
"Definitely being able to go there and to experience the world-class technology that scientists are using," she said.
Guraziu and Ewoldt said they were eager to participate in the project because it was a chance to work with the same technology and environment as scientists. Both hope to pursue careers in science.
"[Argonne] really wants to encourage young people in the science field," Karen Beardsley said. "They're really, really available and enthusiastic at helping us."
Beardsley said she learned about the program through an email from the DuPage Regional Office of Education and decided to get involved because of the opportunity it would bring for students.
"I go between feeling kind of elated that this is such a great opportunity to overwhelmed," she said. "I feel my limit [of experience], but it's such a great opportunity that I'm OK with it."