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High school teacher joins UConn lab to bring cutting-edge science to classroom

New Britain High School science teacher Lesley Skenderian will trade her lesson book for a lab coat this summer at UConn, in a unique two-year program that brings cutting-edge science research into high school classrooms.

A Partners in Science Award will enable Skenderian to join Domenic Grasso, director of the environmental engineering program, in his lab this summer and next, studying the physical chemistry of bacterial adhesion. Skenderian hopes to develop a strain of mobile bacteria that can break down contaminants at hazardous waste sites. These slippery bacteria may be more effective than existing methods of cleaning up such sites.

More than 100 of Skenderian's inner-city students will benefit from her experience.

"It's going to give me an opportunity to try some new things in the classroom," said Skenderian. "As high school teachers we talk about the scientific method, but it's all theoretical for us because most of us have never conducted scientific research."

The award was co-sponsored by the Olin Corporation Charitable Trust of Norwalk and Research Corp., a Tucson, Ariz.-based foundation for the advancement of science. Research Corp. partners with local companies to give the award to teachers and universities throughout the country.

"We are pleased to be able to participate in what we see as a very important effort by UConn and New Britain High School," said Jon Geiger, group leader for biotechnology research at Olin Research Center in Cheshire.

UConn was among 40 recipients this year. It is the first time the University has received the award.

"I think it's going to be exciting for me as well as Lesley," Grasso said. "It's important to expose high school students to what's happening in university research. Hopefully, it will excite them to pursue science and engineering