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Summer Internship Pays Dividends for High School Student

Picture of student.Dec. 1, 2017 | Most research assistants and students have to wait well into their college careers to garner hands-on, graduate-level research experience. Thanks to a summer internship at UAMS, high school senior Sabrina Jones got that opportunity years early.

Each summer, the UAMS Center for Diversity Affairs sponsors senior high school and undergraduate college students from minority, marginalized or disadvantaged groups in the Summer Research Internship Program (SRIP). The nine-week program pairs students with a UAMS faculty member and allows students to experience the laboratory and sit in on lectures, seminars and workshops.

“Developing a culturally competent health care workforce is central to the Center for Diversity Affairs’ mission,” said Billy Thomas, M.D., M.P.H., vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion and director of the UAMS Center for Diversity Affairs. “The summer program exposes students to research in an attempt to not only expand their knowledge, but also to increase their awareness of career options as well as establish a mentor relationship.”

Jones was paired with Gunnar Boysen, Ph.D., an associate professor in the UAMS Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health, and spent the entire summer conducting research at UAMS.

“Sabrina was a terrific, young student and it was hard to believe she was only in high school” said Boysen. “It was sheer fun seeing her enthusiasm in learning about our research and then developing and perusing her own ideas.” Boysen invited Jones to come back during the school year to continue her work, which she obliged, coming in on weekends since school started to lend a hand.

“This internship allowed me to conduct graduate-level research and network with individuals whom I would never have met without this program,” said Jones.

The following is a statement by Sabrina highlighting the intent, benefits and impact of the program. 

This summer, I was given the opportunity to participate in the Summer Research Internship program through the Center for Diversity Affairs at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Through this program, I was assigned a mentor, Dr. Boysen, and was able to conduct research that is normally not available to high school students.

            The research project that I started, the gamma-glutamyl-glutamine induced transformation of NIH 3T3 Cells, was a lengthy cellular assay. This project required me to stay past the allotted time for my internship; I worked in the lab up until the start of the school year. Over the course of the summer, I developed a professional relationship with not only my lab mentor, but also the other employees in the lab. Dr. Boysen extended an invitation to me to continue to come back and continue my research during the school year. I have continued to come into the lab on the weekends, and I have developed ideas for future research.

            Not only has this opportunity allowed me to conduct graduate level research, but I have also been able to network with individuals whom I would never have met without this opportunity. For example, I was recently given the opportunity to present my research at the Arkansas Medical Assistants State Conference. Additionally, I am going to be able to participate in the science fair at my school with the research project that I conducted, potentially advancing to the state and international levels in this competition.