HudsonAlpha outreach program pairs UAH students with aspiring scientists


UAH’s College of Science has been a long-time partner with HudsonAlpha’s Advanced Placement Program for Learning Enhancement (APPLE), an outreach initiative that brings research experiments to local high school AP biology students.

Michael Mercier | UAH

Outreach is an essential part of the College of Science's mission at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), whether it's hosting events like the Science Olympiad and the Alabama Science and Engineering Fair, serving as a sponsor for the Rocket City Weatherfest and ChargerCon, or providing professional development opportunities for science teachers across North Alabama.

"The College of Science sees outreach as our way of giving back to the community and of inspiring the next generation of scientists," says Carey Snowden, who serves as the outreach and events coordinator for the College. "Our outreach programs have the added benefit of helping our students develop the skills to share their knowledge and their enthusiasm for science."

One outreach initiative that's proved particularly popular among the College's students over the last few years is the Advanced Placement Program for Learning Enhancement (APPLE). Coordinated by the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, the program enables two essential lab exercises to be taught to area high school students enrolled in AP biology whose teachers may not otherwise have access to the equipment and materials needed.

Being able to volunteer by going out to local high schools and explaining biology, which is one of my main interests, has been a unique privilege for me.

Jonathan Kilroy
UAH student

"The enzyme catalysis lab and the bacterial transformation lab are strongly recommended for AP biology students because they are tested on material covered in the labs," says Dasi Price, who serves as the K-12 student experiences lead of HudsonAlpha's Educational Outreach Program. "But they're also resource-intensive labs, so we knew there was a need in our community if we wanted all the schools in our area to be on an equal playing field."

Integral to meeting that need, however, is volunteers - which is where the College of Science comes in. "Carey has done a great job of getting students involved in APPLE, and doing so consistently, which makes the College of Science our strongest partner in the program," says Price. "Not only are the students able to provide near-to-peer mentoring, since many are themselves recent high school graduates, but they also enable us to decrease the teacher-student ratio in these classrooms from 1:32 to 1:4."

Junior biology major Jonathan Trinh is one of those who have made time to volunteer with APPLE, despite already serving as a PASS leader, a Science Ambassador, and a research assistant in Dr. Leland Cseke's lab. "It's beneficial because it gives high school students hands-on exposure to the field, and kinesthetic learning seems to be the best method for the majority of students," he says. "And it's important to me to give back to this community specifically, because HudsonAlpha and programs similar to APPLE have helped me get to where I am today."


UAH's Department of Biological Sciences is housed in the Shelby Center.

Michael Mercier | UAH

Jonathan Kilroy, Trinh's follow APPLE volunteer, agrees. A UAH freshman double-majoring in biology and chemistry, Kilroy became an APPLE volunteer for the first time this past spring. "I remembered APPLE coming to my high school and so I wanted to take part," he says. "This program gets students familiar with equipment such as micropipettes and spectrophotometers that are essential to the fields of biology and chemistry, and it gives high school students a boost if they decide to go into biology- or chemistry-related fields."

Just as important, he points out, the rewards go both ways. "Teaching someone else is the best test of how well you know the material, so I have gained valuable experience not only watching these labs a few more times but also having to explain how and why they work," says Kilroy. "It is always a great feeling to help someone understand why something works, and I feel that passing on knowledge is an extremely important task. So being able to volunteer by going out to local high schools and explaining biology, which is one of my main interests, has been a unique privilege for me."

Kilroy and his fellow volunteers may even inspire those high school students to one day pursue their own science career at UAH. And if so, says Snowden, he'll be sure to tap them as future APPLE volunteers. "It's great to see students who we met through APPLE or events like the Science Olympiad come full circle and volunteer for those programs as UAH students," he says. "The leadership and communication skills our students learn through their volunteer work is part of the reason they're so exceptional and competitive when they graduate!"



Carey Snowden

Dasi Price