Biology and Earth Science Professor Hosts Middle School Students in Her Lab to Encourage Mentorship and Outreach

Posted Jul 28, 2022

By Kailey Mishler ’24

Associate Professor Jennifer Bennett has been teaming up with her students in the Department of Biology and Earth Science to help local middle school students on their science fair projects.  

Over the past few years middle schoolers have been reaching out to Bennett for help on their projects.   

“It’s really just on demand. If a student is interested in doing a science fair project, they might reach out to me. I have a bunch of students already doing research in my lab, so I do a tiered mentoring approach. This way the Otterbein students in my lab get the opportunity to mentor someone that’s younger and aspiring to be a scientist, or at least excited to do science,” said Bennet. 

Bennett explained that she started this program because she enjoys helping younger community members who have an interest in the science field. 

Student studying a slide under a microscope
Student studying a slide under a microscope

“I’ve always been involved in science outreach. I really enjoy working with not only college students, but seeing science in the public. It’s a very rewarding experience,” said Bennett. 

Bennett’s most recent middle schooler was an eighth-grade student from St. Paul Catholic School, Audriana Barry.  

“Audriana’s project involved the examination of bacterial counts on three different types of masks worn during the COVID-19 pandemic. She wanted to know how many bacteria grew on each type of mask after being worn,” said Bennet.   

Barry’s project was awarded a rating of superior, the highest honor, at the district level. She presented her project at the State Science Day, where it was awarded an excellent, the honor just below superior. 

While working on her project, not only did Barry get access to lab equipment on campus, but she also received help from Otterbein students Olivia Brickey and Lea Wright.  

Wright is a triple major studying Zoo and Conservation Science, Biology, and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. She explained that while helping Barry she gained a sense of regard and admiration towards science and her majors.  

“It was refreshing to spend time with a student who had so much enthusiasm for science. I feel that through helping Audriana I’ve also gained a greater appreciation for my major and interest in science,” said Wright. “Being an upcoming senior, it seems that a lot of us are focused on graduation, filling out resumes, and finding jobs. In a rushed year, it reminded me to focus on my interests and enjoy the time I have left at Otterbein.”