“This is way better than flipping burgers,” Stephanie Kayaka says as she examines an image of a fly eye gene. The reason Kayaka, a rising tenth grader, got to spend her summer with microscopes and dead bugs instead of french fry grease is the Summer Academic Research Experience (SARE), a Johns Hopkins program that pairs local teens from academically disadvantaged homes with university mentors. The student-mentor pairs spend the summer working on a research project — and gaining valuable skills, of course.
And the projects are anything but your garden-variety science fair research. This year, rising sophomore Christopher Miller used a cell biology lab to study the protein myosin; Shaolin Holloman, a rising 11th grader, explored the SARS coronavirus; and Keyaka looked at rhodopsin in those fly eyes.
The idea behind the program is a simple (but valuable) one: the specially-selected teens gain research skills, knowledge about scientific careers, writing practice, and a resume boost — not to mention a stipend. SARE is one of several summer programs offered by the university for promising Baltimore City high school students. In another program, students with academic potential but problems with resources or stability (ie., a history of missing classes; homelessness) are given summer jobs gathering data in Hopkins research labs, as well as rooms in an adult-supervised group home. Last summer, the first two summer scholars headed off to college (Loyola University Maryland and William and Mary).
If you’re interested in seeing some of the work that these students have accomplished over the summer, they’ll be presenting their findings in a poster session on the Johns Hopkins medical campus this Monday from 3:30-4:30 p.m. Refreshments will be served!
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