Overview | The Laboratories | Original Sponsors


A distinguishing characteristic of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology is its specialized science and technology research laboratories. They are designed to enhance the academic curriculum as well as provide students with unique learning experiences in technological environments, opportunities for independent research, experimentation, and interaction with professionals from the scientific, engineering, technological, and industrial communities. Through a mentorship coordinator, each laboratory maintains contact with local government, private research laboratories, and technical facilities for information exchange and off-campus student mentorship opportunities.

Research Laboratories

Astronomy (Lee Ann Hennig)

Students in the Astronomy Laboratory are involved in projects related to planetary geology, deep space image processing, and telescopic observations. Students are able to investigate astronomical images on CD ROM for their planetary projects. The Astronomy Laboratory participates in the Telescopes in Education program based on Mount Wilson in California. Students are permitted to remotely control Mt. Wilson's 24-inch telescope. Students access the telescope by modem and download the images in real time. Using "The Sky" software enables the students to do image processing. Other projects center on analyzing data provided by astronomers who are doing fundamental research on topics such as: light curves of variable stars, spectroscopic analysis, and investigating planetary features.

Automation and Robotics (Chuck DelaCuesta)

In the Automation and Robotics Laboratory students apply engineering concepts to the design and fabrication of automated and robotic systems. They investigate the building blocks of those systems including sensors, analyzers, actuators, drivers, controllers, and power supplies. Students identify and solve problems aimed at integrating the concepts of automation and robotic systems, with a view to electronics, computer programming, and manufacturing. Applications are viewed with consideration of their social, cultural and ethical impacts.

Biotechnology (Andrea Cobb, Larry Gaudreault)

The Biotechnology Laboratory provides a unique technology experience for a large portion of the Jefferson student body. The program offers a biotechnology training and research program designed to transform traditional secondary molecular biology studies into an applications program that helps students experience the power of newly discovered research tools associated with recombinant DNA technologies. The laboratory's primary mission is to supply a laboratory research-based program that allows its students to experience topics from bacterial transformation to DNA mapping. In addition, the program provides students with the experience of new, leading-edge technologies including bioinformatics, western blotting, rtPCR and DNA sequencing.

Chemical Analysis (Brian Kennedy)

In the Chemical Analysis Laboratory students take three years of chemistry from basic chemistry to more advanced topics which allow them to pursue independent research. For some students their chemistry experience culminates in an introductory organic chemistry with instrumental analysis course. For others, an independent research project rounds out their chemistry study.

Communications (Ed Montgomery)

Students in the Videotechnology and Communications Laboratory are involved in the technical side of developing video projects which inform or entertain the viewer. They adapt video technology to convert ideas into a finished visual product, including videos for Fairfax County Public Schools, promotional videos for community agencies and programs that cable-cast throughout the school. Serving as a resource facility, the Television Studio is used in a variety of interdisciplinary activities throughout the school. Students are given instruction on equipment operation and ongoing guidance as the projects progress. A study of the fundamentals of audio and video telecommunications equipment is incorporated.

Computer Aided Design (Michelle Fisher)

The Computer Assisted Design Laboratory allows students to interact with the computer to produce various three dimensional designs. Seniors conducting research projects in CAD are free to pursue their interests through independent studies in a variety of technical fields. Students have access to various AutoDesk software packages, from CAD 2000i to 3D Studio Max and 3D Studio VIZ to turn their ideas into reality.

Computer Systems (Randy Latimer)

The Computer Systems Laboratory supports studies in theoretical and applied computational science, computer architecture, artificial intelligence, and supercomputing. Working in a UNIX environment, students are able to investigate a wide range of pure and applied research topics utilizing a variety of computer languages and styles. Projects fall within a broad spectrum of computer science areas spanning computer graphics, artificial intelligence, computer vision, high performance computing, grid/distributed computing, computational science applications such as computational linguistics, agent based modeling of complex systems including social complexity, software design, and theoretical algorithmic development of ideas as varied as tree data structures to ant colony search optimization. The Computer Systems Laboratory emphasizes a multilingual computer language community, featuring C/C++, Java, Python, Ruby, XML, PHP, Perl, MySQL, JavaScript, Tk, OpenGL, Fortran, Lisp, and MASON (Multi-Agent Simulator of Neighborhoods).

Energy Systems (Adam Kemp)

In the Energy Systems Laboratory students apply the knowledge, problem-solving skills and project management skills acquired during their previous three years. Students may pursue projects of interest in a wide range of engineering disciplines, such as heat transfer, fluid dynamics, direct and indirect energy conversion, and mechanical systems. The laboratory accommodates both individual and team projects requiring specific knowledge in such diversified subjects as design, materials, testing, computer interfacing and planning.

Microelectronics (Dave Bell)

The Microelectronics Laboratory provides the opportunity for students to develop research and engineering projects involving the design of electronic circuitry. Areas of focus include digital signal processing, digital control, instrumentation, analog and digital audio, and communications. The various elective courses offered through this laboratory provide a technological foundation which prepares students for senior research both in this and in other technology laboratories.

Neuroscience (Paul Cammer)

The Neuroscience Laboratory is an interdisciplinary lab, incorporating skills from the areas of biology, electronics, robotics, computer science, mathematics, chemistry, and physics. Research projects can involve brainwave analysis, conversion of brainwaves into electronic signals that would perform various physical or computer tasks, the biochemistry and physiology of axon action potential propagation and of synaptic transmission, nerve regeneration, computational neurobiology, and other exciting endeavors.

Oceanography and Geophysics (Lisa Wu)

The Oceanography and Geophysics Research Laboratory focuses on the biological and physical aspects of oceanography and the geophysical systems. Biological oceanography students work on projects in taxonomy, morphology, ecology, biogeography and evolutionary biology. Physical Oceanography students work on projects in tidal dynamics, ocean currents and ocean acoustics. Geophysical students work on projects in hydrology, geographical mapping, sedimentation and geophysical fluid dynamics. Students are expected to collect their own data from the marine environment on research vessels. Assistance in the form of ship-time and technical advice has come from the Oceanography Department of the United States Naval Academy, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, the Department of Systemic Biology of the National Museum of Natural History, and the Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography of Old Dominion University.

Optics and Modern Physics (Robert Latham)

The Optics and Modern Physics Laboratory provides exciting opportunities for students to develop research and engineering projects in the areas of pure and applied physics that include lens systems, fiber optics, human vision, interferometry, photography, color science, holography, optical computing, or other laser and optical systems. Research projects in modern physics explore areas of nuclear, atomic, electromagnetic, solid state, wave and quantum physics. Other students regularly make use of the laboratory's specialized technologies to develop projects with applications in a variety of other scientific and engineering areas. In addition to research, the laboratory supports elective courses in optics and quantum physics.

Prototyping and Engineering Materials (Clint Behling)

The Prototyping and Engineering Materials Laboratory allows students, through research, to increase their understanding of the nature of a wide range of engineering materials. Students can also explore processes that are used to fabricate these materials. In addition to the research classes, two elective classes are taught through this laboratory. One, the Nature of Materials, is designed to introduce students to the families of engineering materials and to expose them to the physical properties of each. The second elective is Materials Processing. As Nature of Materials is designed to introduce students to the characteristics of materials, Materials Processing is designed to allow students to explore the various ways engineering materials can be fabricated. These electives are designed to lay a foundation for students who will be conducting research in the Prototyping and Engineering Materials Laboratory.