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A day to explore and more

If you enjoy science class and want to pursue a career in science or engineering, the Science Exploration Day may be for you. For 25 years, this event has been held at the University at Buffalo to give teens a chance to explore a future in science.

Last Wednesday, approximately 1,000 high school students from across Western New York attended this year's event.

Students attended workshops that ranged in topics from anatomy to the paranormal. Many workshops included tours of the labs and science buildings at UB.

This year's keynote presentation was "Saving the Lake Erie Water Snake" by Kristin M. Stanford. As part of her presentation, Stanford described her experience with the Lake Erie Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon insularum), a species indigenous to the Great Lakes region that was labeled "endangered" in 1999. Stanford considers herself the "recovery plan coordinator" for a protective strategy adopted in 2003 to boost numbers of the water snakes.

Stanford is pleased to note that her work seems to have been successful, and that the water snakes' numbers have now returned to safer levels. Stanford's work has been featured in numerous media sources, including an episode of "Dirty Jobs" on the Discovery Channel. The scenes left everyone laughing, if not a bit grossed out!

She offered tips to students on their future. Her first tip is to diversify skills and experiences. She said she had no clue that she wanted to work with snakes. Her second tip is "take advantage of opportunities!" She was able to do research in Chile, Illinois and Ohio by looking for new opportunities, and her experiences helped her decide which road she should take. Her final tip is to enjoy what you do.

Sarah Smith, 17, attended a couple of the small group presentations offered throughout the day.

"I like science, but not enough to do it in college," said the Lake Shore High School senior.

A gross anatomy lecture was presented by Don Gill of Erie Community College.

"It was awesome," said Sarah Siwinski, a junior at Niagara Catholic High School. "I'm not really grossed out by things like that."

Sarah recently participated in an internship at Mount St. Mary's Hospital in Lewiston.

"I want to get into the medical field eventually -- maybe nursing," she said. "I also got to see UB -- I've never been there before."

One of the most popular sessions appears to have been the cryogenics lecture.

Students watched Praxair representative Bill Owens demonstrate the power of liquid nitrogen.

"It was really cool," says Caitlin Grimm, 15. "There was a lot of experimentation with liquid nitrogen -- [there was] freezing and showing before and after."

The experiments the Williamsville North sophomore saw included dropping a ball and watching it bounce, dipping it in liquid nitrogen, and dropping it again, only to watch it shatter upon impact.

"I want to go into pharmacy, or [a] biomedical or medical field," said Caitlin.

Stanford's presentation gave students some valuable advice for the future -- along with information about a snake that many had not heard of before.

Kristina Macro is a sophomore at Holy Angels Academy, and Beatrice Preti is a senior at Niagara Catholic High School.

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