Young scientists attend San Jose gathering with Ph.Ds

David Louie Image
ByDavid Louie KGO logo
Friday, February 13, 2015
Citizen Scientist Conference
Some students are doing high level work at the Citizen Scientist Conference in San Jose.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Some Bay Area high school students doing some very high-level work at the Citizen Science Conference taking place in San Jose on Thursday and Friday.

This is one large gathering of Ph.D.'s. However, some delegates don't even have their high school diplomas, but the American Association for the Advancement of Science wants them here at their national conference. They're called citizen scientists, part of a movement to get ordinary people involved in research.

Megan Torio is a senior at Oakland's Met West High School. She has been doing air quality testing at BART stations.

"I didn't know about testing air quality or water quality, any of that. My whole perspective on science changed once I was involved," said Torio.

Others are doing monitoring of shoreline habitats. It's part educational, part public awareness campaign.

"People are out there doing this. They're making a difference, and we can do it, too. Or we should be funding this kind of work," said Amy Dean with Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association.

Doing field studies can mean giving up sports at school.

"I had a choice of either getting a great experience or swimming. And I was thinking, like I would never probably get this chance ever again, so I chose to give up swimming," said Andrew Le at Lowell High School.

The Citizen Science Conference allows researchers and graduate students to focus on advanced projects, such as development of a robotic race car and how to protect them from hackers.

"They won't be perfect. There will be possibilities for abuse, and we just have to try to think about as we're developing, roll them out in a way where that can be addressed," said Professor Chris Gerdes with Stanford School of Engineering.

Although he's young, Frankie Gerraty says the research he's been doing is respected by scientists.

"It was incredible to have scientists coming up to us, asking questions about our research. They were all blown away by how we're only in high school, and we have the opportunity to present at a prestigious conference," said Frankie Gerraty at The Branson School.