HOLMDEL - While the signs outside many schools this month encourage students to “recharge” or “relax” Holmdel High School rising junior, Bill Zhang has chosen to add a third “re” to his summer plans and “research.” Zhang spent part of his summer recess conducting research as part of the Waksman Student Scholars program at the Waksman Institute at Rutgers University, a program with which the Holmdel High School Science department has had a long-standing relationship. 

During this two-week workshop, Zhang was able to build upon the knowledge and skills he gained in Holmdel’s noted Honors Advanced Research course. According to Supervisor of Science and Math Alicia Killean, the Waksman Student Scholars' Program (WSSP) has been an integral part of Holmdel High School's Honors Advanced Research class for many years.  In the program, students like Zhang learn the fundamentals of isolating, sequencing and analyzing segments of DNA of an organism never before analyzed.  “I've gone from having an abstract perspective of basic biology principles to developing a concrete ability of applying what I have learned to carry out experiments and produce publication-quality data,” Zhang shared upon completing the program. 

Through the program, students conduct original research, and when their research is successful, the results are published in the national database, National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). “When the scientific world goes to NCBI and references these clones they will write that our students are the first authors,” said Holmdel High School teacher, Dr. Josephine Blaha. 

"Our partnership with the Waksman Institute has been a tremendous asset within our Honors Advanced Research class over the years,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert McGarry. “In addition to the research opportunity, the summer institute provides an opportunity to cultivate student leaders who can then transfer their knowledge and skills to other students in this course,” he added. According to Dr. Blaha, Bill will serve as her Teaching Assistant when the Honors Advanced Research course gets under way at the high school this coming year. “I am excited to pass on the knowledge and skills I have gained to students back at Holmdel High School this coming year,” Zhang indicated.