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This is one time Kaycee Perez didn’t mind listening to her older brother.
The soon-to-be Glendo High School senior is following in her brother Leo’s path to higher education. The siblings' educational decisions were influenced by their participation in a summer high school program at the University of Wyoming.
Perez is taking part, through the end of the month, in the Summer Research Apprentice Program (SRAP), an intensive, 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 Perez, also are eligible for the UW program.
Kaycee learned about the program from Leo, who just completed his freshman year of petroleum engineering studies at UW. He had participated in SRAP his junior and senior years while he was at Glendo High School.
“He encouraged me to apply to the program because he had such a good experience here,” says Kaycee, who plans to attend UW and wants to be either a physical therapist or an athletic trainer. “He made it sound so interesting. I decided to apply for the program and got accepted.”
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. Side 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 it 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, 16 students from six 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.
Perez works with Sreejayan Nair, a UW School of Pharmacy associate professor, on a joint project that involves discovering certain proteins that can be used to treat Type 2 diabetes.
“This has been a great program. They have kept us busy and I’ve definitely learned a lot,” she says. “I really liked working in the lab. This program has helped me to work on my people skills and it has shown me how it will be to be out in society working on a real job.”
She says the skills she’s learned in the laboratory will help her in her high chemistry classes, especially learning proper measuring ratios.
“Coming here and participating in SRAP will help me when I enroll here next year at UW,” she adds. “I now know where everything is on campus.”
SRAP students will present their research work in front of class members, family and invited guests during the program’s final day, which is Friday, July 20.
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.