New York City Public High School Students Visit M4S Scientists at University of Virginia

Did your math teachers take you on field trips? “Math is how we engage with the world,” Mechanical Engineer Bevin Etienne recently told a group of high schoolers visiting the University of Virginia. So one might think that math field trips — explorations of the world, led by math teachers — might be a common practice.  Yet they are rare. A director of Urban Academy Laboratory High School, a public school in New York City, invited Math4Science Founder Justine Henning to create a semester-long M4S course for their students.  “What’s Data About,” the course Henning came up with is a… Learn more

Amanda Kyle Gibson

BiologistEvolutionary Biologist Once upon a time, there was a banana named Big Mike (Gros Michel was its French name). Popular with people who eat fruit and with farmers who made a living off of providing that fruit to them, Big Mike was planted over and over. This particular banana tree was cloned — farmers grew genetically identical versions of it on many Latin American plantations, a practice known as monoculture. Alas, along came a dastardly fungus: the disease known as Fusarium wilt. It destroyed Big Mike, who had next-to-no protection from disease. And with all that cloning, if Fusarium wilt… Learn more

Jill Venton

Analytical Chemist / Neurochemist / Chemist Have you worked with fruit flies in science class or spotted these very small insects flying around ripe bananas or other fruit? Imagine the size of a fruit fly’s brain. How would you measure something that small? And how might experimenting with the chemicals in brains that small help human beings work towards understanding and one day finding a cure for diseases like Parkinson’s? A nanometer (nm) is a tiny piece of a meter.  (Spread your arms wide and look at the distance between your left and right hands. That’s about a meter or,… Learn more


An animal’s nervous system uses chemicals called neurotransmitters to communicate all sorts of information. How hot, cold, or sharp is that thing you’re touching and what should you do about that? What parts of your body hurt at any given time? How do you feel about that thing your friend just said? Your brain and spinal cord and the nerves running between them and the rest of your body help you answer questions like these.   Neurochemist Jill Venton, an Analytical Chemist, studies neurotransmitters like dopamine.  When do our brains create more dopamine? How can we measure the chemicals present in… Learn more

Analytical Chemist

What’s that made of???  You might wonder this about a delicious (or disgusting) food you’re eating, the materials toys, buildings, or machines are made of, or parts of plants or animals. Analytical chemists help find precise, molecular answers to that question. They use cool tools and what they know about chemistry to figure out exactly what things are made of. Analytical Chemist Jill Venton, a neuroscientist, studies the chemicals at work in our brains. She and her team of scientists also create tiny structures to help them measure the neurotransmitters in animals’ brains. Chemist William C. Johnson creates paper capable… Learn more

Global Change Ecologist

Sea levels are rising and droughts, fires, and major storms are having effects around the globe. With changes in Earth’s climate and biodiversity (the different species of plants, animals, and other forms of life) affecting human safety, many ecologists and other scientists, computer technologists and engineers are working hard.  Their collaborative efforts use information from the present and even distant past to create and update computer models that predict future change. Global Change Ecologist Xi Yang uses drones and other high-tech tools to gather information about trees and their survival rates under different conditions. Earth System and Computer Scientist Charles… Learn more

Xi Yang

Ecologist/Global Change Ecologist  According to Guinness World Records, the tallest living tree — a Sequoia sempervirens in California’s Redwood National Park — stood 115.85 meters (380 feet and one inch) tall in 2017. Scientists estimate that this tree has stood there for 600-800 years.   In the second decade of this century, from approximately 2011 to 2017, record-breaking hot temperatures in California combined with low rates of precipitation (rain and snow) to cause a drought. Scientists studying that drought determined that it was the worst one in over 1,000 years. They measured tree growth (trees grow faster in wetter years, producing… Learn more

Lauren Miller Simkins

Glacial Geologist The Nathaniel B. Palmer ship is an icebreaker — a boat designed to break ice so that the scientists on board can explore Antarctica at all seasons of the year, in any weather conditions. Glacial Geologist Lauren Miller Simkins spends one to three months at a time on this ship, working seven days a week in shifts of 12 hours. She usually gets only around five hours of sleep a night when working on the Palmer because the work that she and her colleagues do is so exciting that she “has trouble going to sleep after 12 hours.”… Learn more

Glacial Geologist

Geologists study Earth and its history. Our planet is mainly made up of rocks and water, both of which are important in the work of a glacial geologist. Glaciers form when unmelted snow becomes increasingly dense over hundreds of years. They can become parts of ice sheets, huge collections of glacial land ice that cover more than 50,000 square kilometers (over 20,000 square miles).  Glacial Geologist Lauren Miller Simkins studies ancient glaciers and ice sheets. Knowing more about how ice behaved on Earth’s surface in the past can help us better understand what it’s doing now and what we can… Learn more

M4S@School Helps New York City Students Visit NASA

Math4Science Founder Justine Henning brought Urban Academy Laboratory High School’s calculus class to Maryland for a visit to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Goddard Space Flight Center.   Preparing for the Visit Math4Science lessons begin with an open-ended question designed to help students and teachers get to know each other and explore the role of STEM in their own lives. Engineers we interview often remember taking things apart and trying to put them back together as children. “What have you taken apart? What happened after that?” These were the questions we asked Urban Academy’s calculus students. K took apart… Learn more