Gannon's Summer Science Program: Strong As Ever

Reg Summ School: Stan and Zach Posted: July 24, 2012

Stan Zagorski has directed Gannon University’s Regional Summer School of Excellence for nearly 30 years, and in the process has taught hundreds of high school students.

Zagorski, Gannon University professor emeritus in biology, remains as enthusiastic as ever about the program. The opportunity to work alongside students who enjoy the sciences, and who themselves are extremely enthusiastic about learning, is why Zagorski looks forward to the program every July.

“The kids are great. We cover a lot of ground in the program, but they’re like sponges and absorb everything so well,” said Zagorski, shown here with Zach Hyman of North East High School. “I love the program because it helps many of the students develop a lasting interest in the sciences. And, it’s gratifying to see how successful some have become as they’ve gone on through high school and college.”

In just the last three years, more than 20 of the participating students have chosen to attend Gannon. “The students spend two weeks on campus and get to work closely with our faculty,” Zagorski said. “I think so many of them choose Gannon because they see first-hand how talented the faculty are.”

This year, nearly 40 high school students from Erie, Warren and Crawford counties participated in Gannon University’s Regional Summer School of Excellence. The program is free and is a valuable opportunity for the students to participate in hands-on and interactive laboratory and field site study in the life sciences.

The program is challenging, but fun, too. Students also develop a greater appreciation for the environment as a result of their participation.

The site study includes working on Gannon’s research vessel, the Environaut, while studying Lake Erie and Presque Isle Bay. During one trip aboard the Environaut to the lake and bay, students collected three types of data: physical, chemical and biological.

  • Physical – Included wind direction and velocity, relative humidity, precipitation and the water’s depth, temperature, transparency and turbidity, which is the relative clarity and purity of the water.
  • Chemical – Included the water’s pH as well as the amount of dissolved oxygen and carbon dioxide in the water.
  • Biological – Included plankton, benthic macro invertebrates in the sediment and bacteria in the water.

Through the collection of such data, students can assess the overall health of the lake and the environment, Zagorski explained. “The students learn the importance of limnology – the scientific study of bodies of fresh water,” he said, “and how science can help address environmental health issues.”

As part of their participation, students also collected fish for necropsies. Studying the fish for internal tumors, parasites and other diseases provided clues as to the water’s quality.

In addition, the students attended lectures by Zagorski as well as Gannon faculty members Very Rev. Joseph Gregorek, Ph.D., professor, Gannon biology department, and Matthew Heerboth, Ph.D., assistant professor, Gannon chemistry department.

The program concluded with an awards ceremony at Gannon University. Students were recognized for the lab reports they submitted and for their ability to integrate biological, chemical and physical parameters into meaningful scientific conclusions. 

The Regional Summer School of Excellence is sponsored by Gannon University, the Pennsylvania Governor’s Schools of Excellence and the Northwest Tri-County Intermediate Unit. Interested in the program for July, 2013? Contact Gannon at 814-871-7641.

Gannon University is a Catholic, Diocesan university offering nearly 100 academic programs, including doctoral programs in physical therapy and organizational learning and leadership. Gannon enrolls more than 4,000 academically talented and diverse students. Learn more at http://www.gannon.edu.