Inspiring Science: 12-Year-Old Student Lauded for Work in UM Coral Lab

Nicole Odzer working with Ph.D. student Rachel Silverstein, now finalist in national science competition

Nicole Odzer

MIAMI — Nicole Odzer is not your average 12-year-old middle school student at Highland Oaks Middle School. Yes, she likes to hang out with her friends, but she is also a member of the Florida Youth Orchestra, and is captain of the Robotics team. However, Nicole’s real passion is Marine Biology. Fortunately for Nicole, when it was time to do her school science project, the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science was able to find an opportunity for her in Dr. Andrew Baker’s Coral Reef Conservation Research Laboratory (CR2 Lab).

Mentored by Rachel Silverstein, a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and fourth-year Ph.D. student in the CR2 Lab, Nicole conducted her first science fair project in 2009 testing the effects of sunscreen on corals. Her project not only won first place at her school science fair, but received a superior rating at the South Florida Regional Science Fair as well.

Focused on doing a project related to last year’s Deep Water Horizon oil spill, Nicole wanted to look into the effects of Louisiana Crude Oil and the cleanup chemical dispersants on coral fragments. Again under Silverstein’s mentorship, Nicole composed a science project that took home the 1st place award in the Environmental Science Division at the Florida State Science and Engineering Fair. The Sierra Club even honored her efforts as the “Most Outstanding Project” at the State Fair.

“I am so excited about the research and what I have learned from it. The experiences I have gained from competing in science fairs and learning how to communicate my findings has been invaluable. I am so fortunate to have found Rachel. She has changed my life, and I can’t wait to start another project!” said Nicole.

Odzer is now a finalist from more than 800 applicants, competing at the International Sustainable World Energy Engineering and Environment Project (I-SWEEEP) Olympia middle school competition. Nicole will be one of ten who compete for the top honor in Houston, Texas this coming May.

Silverstein added, “I remember how formative my science fair projects were, even when I was very young. I can directly relate those experiences to wanting to do science for my career. I am thrilled that Nicole has done so well with her projects for two years in a row, and I cant wait to see what she does next.”

About the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School
The University of Miami is the largest private research institution in the southeastern United States. The University’s mission is to provide quality education, attract and retain outstanding students, support the faculty and their research, and build an endowment for University initiatives. Founded in the 1940’s, the Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science has grown into one of the world’s premier marine and atmospheric research institutions. Offering dynamic interdisciplinary academics, the Rosenstiel School is dedicated to helping communities to better understand the planet, participating in the establishment of environmental policies, and aiding in the improvement of society and quality of life. For more information, please visit

nicole odzer •  dr. andrew baker •  rachel silverstein •  national science foundation •  deepwater horizon •  oil spill •  environmental •