If you happen to come across the February 4, 2019, issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, check out the article that begins on page 3940: “Redox-Active 1D Coordination Polymers of Iron–Sulfur Clusters.” One of its nine authors is Mia P. Grahn, who spent the summer of 2018 planning and performing experiments in a University of Chicago inorganic chemistry lab. Nothing unusual about that … until you consider the fact that Grahn was a rising high school senior at the time.
Grahn’s job in the Anderson Lab was part of a STEM lab internship program for Chicago Public Schools students created through a partnership between the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) — where scientists collaborate to solve some of society’s most pressing challenges — and the After School Matters program for teens. Interns are valued members of their research teams; during the course of the summer, they learn firsthand how STEM professionals work, and also benefit from college preparation workshops and mentoring by graduate students and postdoctoral scholars.
Grahn was excited to perform meaningful research related to sustainable energy, and says that her PME experience was pivotal in helping her become comfortable in a university research setting. “I was reluctant at first to ask questions in the lab,” she says, because “I was afraid of appearing inexperienced … but Professor Anderson constantly emphasized the importance of asking questions and not being afraid to do so.”
Now working on a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at Johns Hopkins University, Grahn says that at UChicago, “I finally felt that I had found a place where asking deep questions and never settling for one answer was a fundamental characteristic of the community.”