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Andrea Thomas, a sophomore at the Academy of the Holy Names in Albany, is getting the chance to conduct her own research on medical prosthetics, thanks to the school’s Science Research in the High School program. 

The three-year program allows students to choose a research topic of their interest and construct an original experiment with the assistance of a mentor. Students learn the importance of applying the scientific method in real life situations and can earn up to 12 college credits from the University at Albany. 

Thomas is one of 13 Holy Names students enrolled in the program and is currently conducting research on the designs of medical prosthetics. In a school newsletter, she said she was drawn to the topic of prosthetics out of “curiosity.”

“To see something as common as a prosthetic and be completely unaware of how it functions and how it is used is what initially sparked my interest,” she said.

Donna Mooney, science department chairperson and coordinator for the program, said that Thomas is “pretty far advanced for a sophomore.” 

Through the program, Thomas was able to analyze existing limb templates and construct her own functioning prosthetic hand using her school’s 3D printer. Her goal is to construct a working prosthetic hand that looks more like a human-hand than current prosthetics do. 

“It’s pretty incredible,” said Mooney. 

Three of the program’s graduating seniors are concluding their research projects this semester. One student’s project included research on plant science and plant species, another was on the Zika virus, and another student was working with a local architect firm on conducting a prototype of a homeless shelter for refugees. 

Mooney said that the program is helping prepare students for the next step after high school. “The students involved are learning what real science is, and a lot of science is learned from the ground up,” she said. “It’s a different experience.”