Summer program inspires a new generation of scientists

Written by 
Monica May
Preuss SBP interns 2019

Usually the opportunity to experience research firsthand is reserved for college seniors or recent graduates. This summer, however, nine talented high school students had the unique opportunity to work alongside scientists conducting cutting-edge biomedical research through the Institute’s Preuss program. 

“Now, I am confident that I want to pursue science as a career,” shares 16-year-old program participant Stephanie Rios. “Many people think that science is not available to them because they aren’t capable. I learned that it is okay to not know all the answers. It’s most important to be curious and willing to figure things out.”

Stephanie Rios and Andrew Bankston
       Stephanie Rios poses with Preuss
       program manager Andrew Bankston,
       Ph.D., during the graduation ceremony.

Hailing from The Preuss School UC San Diego—a distinguished charter school for students who would be the first in their families to graduate from college—the soon-to-be juniors spent two weeks rotating among four labs at Sanford Burnham Prebys. Like most high school students, this was the first time the participants had set foot inside a working lab.

Working with fruit flies, worms, zebra fish and mice—excellent models for understanding the heart, aging, tissue regeneration and the immune system, respectively—the students used sophisticated laboratory techniques such as micropipetting, microscopy and gel electrophoresis to experience how biomedical researchers uncover the underlying causes of disease.

“We used the real pipettes that scientists actually use for experiments,” explains Rios. “At school we use plastic eyedroppers.”

At the program’s conclusion, the students presented their research findings to Institute scientists, staff and supporters, including honorary trustee Malin Burnham; the Preuss School’s director of development, Tamika Franklin; and the students’ family members. All attendees were impressed by the students’ grasp of the complex science they learned during the two-week program. 

“This group of students was exceptionally bright, motivated and collaborative,” says Andrew Bankston, Ph.D., manager of Graduate Student Success for Sanford Burnham Prebys’ Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, which oversees the Preuss program. “I am filled with hope for the future to think that even some of these talented students might one day work to find cures for human disease.” 

The Preuss program launched in 2008, thanks to the generous contributions of Peggy and Peter Preuss and Debby and Wain Fishburn. For more than a decade, this summer program has inspired future scientists by introducing high school students to laboratory research. 

Thank you to the labs of Malene Hansen, Ph.D., Rolf Bodmer, Ph.D., Duc Dong, Ph.D., and Linda Bradley, Ph.D., for hosting the program’s participants. 

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