by Lynda Miller
The R.E.A.P. program has continued in the biology department and has just completed its fifth year. R.E.A.P. stands for Research and Engineering Apprenticeship Program. The program is funded by the U.S. Army Department of Research and supports local high school students to participate in primary research during the summer. Participating faculty mentors are Lynda Miller and Br. Tom Sullivan. Each summer, between three and five students work in the lab, learning the basics of the scientific method and collecting data for their individual research projects. This work culminates in an oral presentation at the meeting of the Western Collegiate Division of the Tennessee Academy of Science. For the past two summers, the students have been studying lichens and their role as indicators of pollution. They have collected and identified lichens down to species, looked at their diversity in urban and rural habitats, and examined the distinct morphology that is exhibited by the variety of lichens present in Shelby County. They have also learned how to use the scanning electron microscope with electron dispersive x-ray spectroscopy to identify heavy metals that are present in the lichens. Although the current students are back in their respective high schools now, they are finishing their data analysis and writing their abstracts in preparation for their presentations in the spring.