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Local High School Students Conduct Research in UW Labs

July 16, 2014
Student working with plants
Virgil Morrison from Riverton looks at a test sample in the University of Wyoming Department of Botany’s Aven Nelson Building. He is taking part in the six-week Summer Research Apprentice Program that helps promote interest in science careers. (UW Photo)

Recently graduated Riverton High School students Bradley Branson and Virgil Morrison are taking part in an intensive research program at the University of Wyoming 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, or recent high school graduates, such as the two Riverton students, also are eligible for the UW program.

Branson plans to attend Black Hills State University to major in education, and Morrison will be a Sheridan College freshman majoring in wildlife biology, with plans to add art as well.

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 Bradley Branson of Riverton conducts research in the UW College of Arts and Science Building. 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.

Branson is researching past fire history in the northeastern corner of Yellowstone National Park in the UW Department of Geography, while Morrison is in the Department of Botany studying mountain pine beetle kill.

Both say SRAP is better preparing them for higher education.

“This program will help prepare me for college with a workload, with the research I have to do and the research papers I will have to write,” Branson says. “This program was something new that I never tried before and it sounded like an enjoyable experience for me when I first heard about it.”

He and Morrison first learned about the program from their high school instructors.

“I’m really hoping that this program actually helps me get a job at Sheridan College working in one of the labs with a professor,” Morrison says. “When I was applying for this program, I was looking for work experience to get a feel for what college life will be like.”

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.

“This has been a really good program to prepare us for college – a stepping stone academically,” Morrison adds.

SRAP 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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