Over time, institutions can change in terms of organization, policies, and personnel, and IMSA is no exception. At IMSA, such changes are made for the betterment of the institution. Dr. Kazadi, the newly appointed head of IMSA’s SIR department, seeks to do just that: improve IMSA by improving SIR. Here is an introductory overview of one our newest staff members.
An alumnus of IMSA’s class of 1990, Sanza Kazadi went on to the California Institute of Technology where he earned his BS degree in physics and his PhD in Computation and Neural Systems. In 1995, Dr. Kazadi founded the Jisan Research Institute (JRI), a nonprofit organization located in Alhambra, CA, the only professional research lab for students ages 13-18 and also those enrolled in community colleges. The mission of the organization was to help students understand the process of scientific research so that they eventually create their own projects. Moreover, JRI students have submitted over 36 papers in professional journals or conference proceedings for publication. Dr. Kazadi hoped to integrate such a program into the American high school system as a way of promoting science training in America. Logically, the next step would be to spread his vision elsewhere; what better location than IMSA?
Indeed, Kazadi affirms that IMSA was a truly transformational experience in his life, claiming a special place in his heart. His IMSA education, coupled with his schooling in Bolingbrook and undergrad at Caltech, inspired Kazadi to do something that no one in the history of IMSA had ever done: carry out graduate work at the Center for Neuromorphic Systems Engineering. Dr. Kazadi believes that we are living in a country blind to the impending danger presented by our education system. According to Kazadi, America has thrived off the fruits of brilliant immigrants — not to say that we do not have these intellectuals present in the United States, but that we don’t do a good enough job of nurturing their talents or educating them. Unfortunately, it is also becomingly increasingly difficult for these young people (like he once was), to receive the inexpensive education that they deserve. Dr. Kazadi maintains that society is failing the next generation of people both financially and practically, in the education system it offers.
Dr. Kazadi started the Jisan Research Institute because he wanted to directly fix this issue by cultivating scientific minds domestically, rather than relying on the efforts of talented immigrants alone. If he could give young people real projects to work on, they would stay in the scientific fields, an increase America’s intellectual capital for innovation. His mission was not in vain, since 90% of his graduates did indeed stay in the scientific field as professionals.
It was actually Dr. Kazadi’s experience in the Mentorship program at IMSA (the predecessor to SIR) which inspired his creation of the JRI. As an IMSA student, Dr. Kazadi spent 3 years at Fermi and gained invaluable knowledge of the scientific field. However, Mentorship was a lot less formal and established of a program than SIR is today. Not every student did complete a paper; in fact, it was considered good fortune if a student’s adviser gave them a project at all. (Dr. K, however, did complete a paper which can still be found on IMSA’s Digital Commons.) Although it provided transportation and a unique opportunity, the Mentorship program lacked structure, making it more a serendipitous endeavor than one dependent on students’ skill and work ethic. The Mentorship program also lacked many of the written requirements and project steps seen in SIR, such as a proposal, written log books (although some universities mandated these), and notebook checks. In the absence of this important documentation, there was no way to ensure the students were actually learning something. He had hoped that with insight gained from his own experience at IMSA’s Mentorship program and then JRI he could come back to IMSA and further the SIR program with a distinct and promising vision. When IMSA called, needing a new head of the SIR department, Dr. Kazadi had already finished all his professional goals and sought to teach kids science elsewhere; it was a perfect coincidence.
Dr. Judy Scheppler, who came to IMSA in the late 1990’s, remarkably made the Mentorship program much more professional and recognizable, shaping it into what it is today. Dr. K truly respects Dr. Scheppler’s foundational work and sees his job now as streamlining the program, bringing in more legitimate research opportunities on campus using IMSA’s world-class staff members, and improving research resources on campus through developing new funding avenues for the program. Having a broad array of on-campus opportunities will encourage students to work right from home, as there is no need to go a university. This change will save the academy the responsibility and money of transportation and the students a good amount of sleep as well!
Dr. Kazadi recognizes that SIR is IMSA’s claim to fame and what makes it special, but it exists as a very distinct and separated aspect of the IMSA experience. There is no unity with this program and the rest of IMSA’s academic experience. Rather, Dr. K hopes to make SIR part of the regular workload at IMSA as opposed to something extra that can be done. This same transition applies to the brilliant staff members of IMSA; SIR should be something that complements their work rather than supplementing it. If students come to IMSA for SIR primarily, the value of the program needs to be clearer for everyone involved.
Dr. K’s vision makes SIR the crux of an IMSA student’s experience so they will get the most out of it. This goes beyond laboratory experience or research knowledge; it means every student gets their work published in some journal, just like all his students at JRI (Yes, all his students published). In the increasingly competitive world of research, high school student work publication is becoming the norm, and as a pioneer in this field, IMSA cannot fall behind.
Already, Dr. K’s vision is coming to life with his reformation of the Grainger Center. Currently a biolab with a surfeit of dead space, he hopes to renovate it into a location that contains entrochemical and swarm engineering sections (subjects that pertained to his previous research at JRI) while the conference room will be partitioned and the bio area compressed for a wiser use of available space. The entrochemical lab will investigate how environmental energy can be better acquired and used for purposes like heating water, generating electricity, etc. In fact, Dr. K has a patented design that uses the energy of the collision of air molecules to create heaters and coolers while separating salt from saltwater and using the excess flow, a single device that can solve water, temperature, and energy problems at once. He hopes to get 20 passionate students to continue his research and actually begin construction of these devices with help from Mr. Urbanski in the Grainger Center as early as the end of this school year. For specifics on the workings of this system or how to be a part of the revolutionary Dr. Kazadi himself or feel free to peruse his published work on the project attached below. The swarm engineering lab will feature validation models/simulations and real robotic models which will require designing, building, and troubleshooting up to 30 robots, a system upon which IMSA can later build. This reorganization of the Grainger Center is already in its early stages, and as soon as the necessary materials arrive, all the projects can themselves begin.
Dr. Kazadi is an inspiring figure and alumnus of IMSA. His vision for the SIR program extends that of Dr. Scheppler by making SIR an integral part of the IMSA experience for all its students. Great change is underway and anyone can take part in the revolution; it is just beginning. Speak with Dr. K himself to learn how to participate and see below for resources germane to his work. Remember that the future is bright and that IMSA will not fall behind; it will lead, and you can, too.
http://www.jisan.org/images/entrochemical.thermal.gradient.pdf (original paper)