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Cheyenne East Student Participates in UW Summer Program

July 16, 2014
Woman working in lab
Heather Peters from Cheyenne looks at test samples in a University of Wyoming College of Agriculture and Natural Resources laboratory. She is taking part in the six-week Summer Research Apprentice Program that helps promote interest in science careers. (UW Photo)

Even though she will be only a junior at Cheyenne East High School this fall, Heather Peters already knows what she wants to major in at the next level of her academic career. But first, she’s not afraid to try something new academically.

Peters plans to attend the University of Wyoming after she graduates from East High, major in psychology, and participate in the university’s ROTC program. She currently is discovering what it’s like to be a research scientist, albeit in a completely different field that interests her: molecular biology.

Peters is taking part in an intensive research program at UW designed to promote interest in science careers.

The Summer Research Apprentice Program is a six-week, paid summer research program for students who have completed their sophomore year of high school. Current high school juniors and seniors, such as Peters, also are eligible for the UW program.

SRAP began in 1985 to provide minorities, first-generation college (neither parent completed college), and female students the opportunity to gain a meaningful firsthand experience in science, mathematics, engineering or other related science research.

SRAP stimulates interest in science careers and is a valuable opportunity to gain firsthand experience in research at UW, says Lisa Abeyta, SRAP project coordinator. Other benefits include exposure to workplace expectations, educational and cultural opportunities on a college campus, and team-building and problem-solving activities for participants.

“I want high school students to know that, even though they may be the first in their family to go to college, it is not impossible. College is an attainable goal,” she says.

Program participants are chosen primarily from the Rocky Mountain region, but others from across the United States also have applied for the annual summer program at UW. This summer, 22 students from nine states are working on research projects.

Based on their interest, participants are paired with a UW professor or post-doctoral researchers, and spend their days in the laboratory performing various research experiments. Among available research areas of interest offered to students are chemistry, energy research, ecology, botany, molecular biology, mathematics, statistics, engineering, nursing and psychology.

“I am interested in psychology, but Lisa put me in the molecular biology department and I’m really enjoying it,” Peters says. “I just feel like this program is getting me ready for school when I return to East.”

For now, she’s learning how to conduct scientific research in a UW College of Agriculture and Natural Resources laboratory. Her project, titled “Near-Infrared Light Activated Guanylyl Cyclase,” is guided by a UW mentor.

“I feel like this program is preparing me for college life,” she adds. “I really enjoy learning new projects, which will only further my education.”

SRAP students will present their research work in front of class members, family and invited guests during the program’s final day, Friday, July 18.

The program is funded by the Wyoming National Science Foundation’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (NSF EPSCoR) through the National Science Foundation grant.

To learn more about the program, contact Abeyta at (307) 766-6059 or email

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