Poly Receives $250,000 Grant From E.E. Ford Foundation

Polytechnic School is thrilled to announce the awarding of a $250,000 Educational Leadership Grant from the E.E. Ford Foundation to further develop the Poly Research Initiative. The grant aims to provide Upper School students in grades 9-12, particularly those from economically strained households, with opportunities to pursue paid scientific or academic inquiry and publish under the guidance of first-rate Poly faculty. The grant also includes a 1:4 match requirement. These matching contributions will be allocated to an endowment fund, dedicated to sustaining and supporting the Poly Research Initiative.

Additionally, the grant will go toward improving faculty compensation by providing professional development opportunities to those dedicated to teaching research and development in their chosen fields. Poly hopes this grant will help create replicable guidelines so that other independent schools can take on similar approaches.

John Gulla, Executive Director of the Edward E. Ford Foundation, said, "The E.E. Ford Foundation is pleased and proud to have awarded an Educational Leadership Grant to Polytechnic to support the Poly Research Initiative, an inspired program benefiting both the young research students they enroll and the many scholars among the faculty.”

The primary mission of the Poly Research Initiative is to create time and space for students to develop intrepid research skills that they can use independently to engage with the real world. The program develops each student’s research skills through hands-on projects that facilitate sustained inquiry & experimentation, productive analysis & reflection, and writing & publication.

Poly first piloted the Initiative in the summer of 2022 under the direction of  Upper School Biology Teacher Dr. Bala Selvakumar and with the support of Science Chair Robin Barnes and Head of School John Bracker. Dr. Selvakumar received a paid opportunity to spend part of the summer doing what he loves most: teaching students how to explore. Through the project, Dr. Selvakumar welcomed three students into his lab, each of whom was responsible for taking a lead role in conducting and publishing critical research. For four weeks, they worked on two projects: one, screening local soil samples for antibiotic resistance genes where their data was published by Tufts University's national database about antibiotic resistance; and two, testing if microorganisms in soil breakdown plastic to generate clean energy, where they received feedback from Caltech researcher and Poly parent Dr. Dianne Newman.

“I think what was so transformative about this research process for me was Dr. Selvakumar teaching me how to fall in love with the unknown,” said one student who participated in the program. “A lot of aspects of science are unknown. You’re researching, you’re conducting experiments, you’re writing it up and publishing, and you’re really just asking questions about the universe that haven’t been explored before. That is the beauty of science!”

We look forward to the future of this exciting grant, which will undoubtedly enrich our students and faculty for years to come. Please stay tuned for more information about this initiative's matching gift.