GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — A pair of Atlantic County high school students were selected as research apprentices this summer at Stockton University.

Panchatapa Baul, a junior at Mainland Regional High School, and Wahedul Mahedi, a senior at Atlantic City High School, spent 200 hours researching hydrogels and photochemical reactions as part of the Army Educational Outreach Program’s Research and Engineering Apprenticeship Program.

Each student was guided by a mentor and worked with them throughout the interactive trial. The duos discussed their research conclusions at the REAP Symposium held Tuesday at Stockton.

Baul and her mentor, Pamela Cohn, spent the summer researching kinetics and the properties of hydrogel forming reactions. Hydrogels are networks of polymer chains that are found in things like contact lenses and gel pills.

In her oral presentation, Baul said she and Cohn made significant progress regarding the process of producing hydrogels and gaining knowledge of hydrogel properties.

Barry Pemberton introduced his mentee, Mahedi, as a student with lofty goals of working in aerospace engineering.

“The biggest surprise that I found with Wahedul was that he immediately had what we refer to in organic chemistry as synthetic hands,” Pemberton said.

Throughout his time researching precision photochemical reactions in organic molecules, Mahedi’s synthesis worked more often than not, even when the yield shouldn’t have been as good as his results showed.

Though the apprenticeship was no small feat for Baul and Mahedi, they both expressed immense gratitude for the opportunity to study at such a highly involved level.

Mahedi said the program was one of the most memorable parts of his summer.

Baul agreed, and said one of the last things she got to tell her grandmother before she died was that she was selected to participate in the program, which made her grandmother very proud.

The REAP program seeks to provide the interns with real-world research projects, mentorship and education on career opportunities. It selects talented high school students from places historically underrepresented on STEM research.

Baul and Mahedi each received a $1,500 stipend for their efforts. Their mentors, Cohn and Pemberton, received $1,000 to administer the program.

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