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Fostering Inquiry: Small Town Student Scientists Make Big Discoveries

This is a story of a science research program and my involvement in it: Small town, passionate teenagers, real science, big discoveries.

11 years ago, a high school science teacher in Brevard, NC decided to change the face of scientific research. With a vision to foster inquiry and a drive for science in high school students, the T.I.M.E 4 Real Science Program was born. This is a story of a science research program and my involvement in it: Small town, passionate teenagers, real science, big discoveries.

T.I.M.E 4 Real Science is a program that is cultivating the future generation of innovators. The program is a semester-long class that allows high school students to explore the realms of scientific inquiry. Students are given the opportunity to come up with their own research project, to connect with researchers in the community, and to participate in both local and national competitions. With an emphasis on doing local research, the program takes precedence for community-driven scientists.

These high school researchers are pushing the boundaries of scientific research. Some projects that have been completed by T.I.M.E students include:

  • Novel Method for Determining Culex quinquefasciatus Behavioural Response to Acoustic Stimuli Through a Split-Tube Design
  • Antimicrobial Activity of Endophytes Isolated from Transylvania County Spray Cliff Plants
  • Isolation of Entomopathogenic Fungi From Mosquito Larvae and Evaluation of Potential for Mosquito Control
  • Electroantennogram assays to determine Megacopta cribraria response to [E]-2-hexenal, tridecane, and [E]-2-decenal
  • Anti-Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis bacterial symbionts on Aneides aeneus epidermal tissue
  • Adapting Lamp Assay and Culturing Methods for use in Detecting Pseudoperonospora humuli in Hops and Pseudoperonospora cubensis in Cucumbers
  • Analysis of Cellulosic Enzyme Production by Trichoderma harzianum and Fusarium solani Isolated from Lignocellulosic Compost
T.I.M.E students at NCSAS Competition in Durham, NC
Photo credits to T.I.M.E

What makes the T.I.M.E 4 Real Science program so significant is its impact on students living in a rural area. T.I.M.E gives rural students a chance to conduct collegiate level research and access to equipment and resources they wouldn’t have otherwise – all in a high school lab. I always get a kick out of seeing the looks on judges faces when I tell them that our school has a rotary evaporator, a biological hood, a thermal cycler and other equipment typically reserved for universities. Through grants and community support, a class started by a single high school science teacher is changing the lives of dozens of high school students.

My involvement in the T.I.M.E 4 Real Science program has acquainted me with life-changing experiences. Over the course of three years, I’ve made friends with people from around the globe, I’ve traveled across the country, and I’ve shared my research with esteemed researchers and community members alike. My research has taken me through fields of kudzu, through streams and rivers, and just recently, down a precarious gorge in search of antimicrobial plants. The program has taught me that there are endless opportunities to conduct research in my own community and it has prepared me for my future endeavors in scientific research.

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T.I.M.E students compete at Intel ISEF in Pittsburgh, PA
Photo credits to T.I.M.E

T.I.M.E has been in place for 11 years and the accomplishments of students that have participated in the program are unnumbered. A majority of students compete at national and international competitions every single year. This past year, we were proud to send 7 students to Intel ISEF – the highest number of students out of any high school in North Carolina. The T.I.M.E 4 Real Science program is truly life-changing. It inspires students to be curious – no matter where they are – and it allows them to make a difference in the community and ultimately the world.

The message here: Science has no borders. Get inspired! Innovation can happen anywhere in the world. Maybe you want to start a research club or initiate science outreach programs for young students. Maybe you want to conduct award-winning research. Whatever it is, remember that great accomplishments are simply a matter of having a vision. But you have to start small if you want to win big. Science is built on the networking of people; make connections, contact community members and college professors, or get together with some friends. You’d be surprised at what you’re able to accomplish when collaborating with others!

“It is our belief that if students are given adequate Time to engage in true Inquiry into their own questions, and find that they and their new findings Matter to others, they will continue to Explore more opportunities in science.”  — TIME Partnership

For more information, visit the T.I.M.E 4 Real Science program here:




Hello! My name is John Nguyen and I'm from Brevard, North Carolina, a tiny town nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I'm currently a junior and I plan on majoring in Biology. Aside from STEM, I'm involved in the band as the principal bass clarinetist, baritone section leader, and drum major. I'm a student researcher, a member of NHS and AJAS, the president of InterACT, and I'm an ISEF alumnus. I'm excited to be apart of this amazing network of young scientists!

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