SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- A group of students and teachers at Union Catholic took part in the exciting new “Skype a Scientist’’ program on Wednesday afternoon.

The world-wide program allows classrooms to virtually connect with scientists all over the globe through video conferencing.

In this first session on Wednesday, Union Catholic’s Sara Tennant, Alexandra Borik, Jade Waithe and Gina Bratti, a mix of AP Biology/AP Environmental Science students, and their teachers, Mrs. Mary Jo Raite and Mrs. Melissa Yezo, skyped with Dr. Angela Straathof, a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at the University of Manchester in England.

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Dr. Straathof is a soil scientist researching the properties of root exudates and soil carbon in temperate grassland systems. She explained what she does and spoke about plant-soil-microbe interactions in a changing environment, how better management practices can be used so that solis are healthier, and how roots change the soil system. She also engaged in a question and answer session.

Mrs. Raite, who teaches AP Biology, said the ‘Skype a Scientist’’ program is great for students and that Union Catholic will continue to be a part of the program going forward.

“Skype a Scientist is a new program that I believe helps to bring real time science into the classroom on a personal level,’’ said Mrs Raite. “The students get an opportunity to meet with someone who is presently doing research in a specific area anywhere in the world. This allows the students to interact and ask questions from why the scientist chose that field, how much schooling is needed, and specific questions on the research they are doing.’’

Tennant said the skyping session with Dr. Straathof was very educational and beneficial.

“It was definitely very cool,’’ said Tennant. “The fact that she was young and just got her doctorate, she was able to really relate to us. And she was able to explain what she was doing and how it impacted the world as it changes. I think it was really awesome that she had the time to speak with us, and I’m really glad I had the opportunity to do this.’’