24 High School Students Land Research Internships at UA

By mid-July, more than 100 Arizona teens will have completed KEYS internships and contributed to ongoing research projects across the University.
June 2, 2011
A 2010 KEYS intern learns lab skills.
A 2010 KEYS intern learns lab skills.
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Twenty-four exceptional Arizona high school students will gain hands-on experience in scientific research this summer during the fifth annual KEYS (Keep Engaging Youth in Science) Internship Program at the University of Arizona.

The UA's BIO5 Institute and the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center at the UA College of Pharmacy direct the program, which begins June 6 and runs through July 15. By the conclusion of this session, more than 100 Arizona teens will have completed KEYS internships and contributed to ongoing research projects across the University.

This year's students are from greater Tucson-area high schools, including Pueblo, Catalina, University, Tucson High, St. Gregory's, Basis, Flowing Wells, Mountain View, Canyon del Oro and Sahuarita, and schools in Phoenix, Chandler, Peoria, Bullhead City and Glendale. They were chosen competitively from more than 80 applicants.

The high school students will work in UA laboratories engaged in bioscience, bioengineering and environmental health science research.

The KEYS interns will attend a training institute during the first week of the program. This year's opening will feature remarks by several past interns, including Kim Tham, a graduate of the initial KEYS group who currently is a senior in biosystems engineering at the UA.

Regarding her KEYS experience, Tham said, "I began to understand the possibilities and rewards for pursuing a degree in science. I learned more about college, graduate programs and possibilities than any other outreach program had offered." 

Following the training week, interns will complete research under the mentorship of UA investigators and graduate students and attend weekly seminars to discuss their experiences and practice science communication skills.

The six-week experience culminates with research poster presentations to their peers, families and the public, at 10 a.m. July 15 in the Thomas W. Keating Bioresearch Building.

More than 40 UA faculty members have mentored KEYS interns since the program began in 2007.

More than 20 researchers are involved this year, including Rod Wing of the Arizona Genomics Institute and Serrine S. Lau, director of Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center. Lau welcomed high school students to her lab for summer projects even before the KEYS program was organized.

"These young people are the ones who will be continuing with the scientific discovery," Lau said. "They will be the ones who will be taking from what little we know now and expanding on further investigation. We must start now by allowing students to ask questions in the search for answers."

The KEYS internship program is funded by the BIO5 Institute, corporate sponsorships from Research Corp. and Sanofi-Aventis Pharmaceuticals and contributions from several individual donors.