Young Innovators Program opens up pharmacy school to high school students
Starting Monday, high school students from the Triangle area will fill the labs at the Eshelman School of Pharmacy as part of its new Young Innovators Program.
During the summer, the student interns will participate in laboratory research projects, attend professional development panels, tour biotechs and clinics at UNC Hospitals and perform problem-solving activities. Each student will be assigned to a professor and work in his or her lab. They also receive a Pharm.D. student, or a graduate student in the pharmacy school, as a clinical mentor. At the end of the summer, they will give presentations outlining what they did and learned.
Adam Friedman, creator and director of Young Innovators Program, said discussion about the program first started last May during an institute administration team meeting. There was talk of creating possible internships for Pharm.D. students, undergraduates and high school students. Friedman, who has had past experience mentoring high school students in a lab and participated in a similar program at Duke University when he was in high school, volunteered to create the program. He said it has been nothing less than a group effort since the beginning.
Friedman said the program would especially not be possible without the generosity of the professors who will be hosting the interns in their labs at their own expenses.
“This really demonstrates the unparalleled excellence of the faculty at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, not just as top-tier researches but as dedicated educators,” Friedman said.
Friedman said the program is running on a small budget, with funding coming from several different sources. The Eshelman Institute for Innovation is providing some funding as well as the brand and location for it. Other funding sources are the UNC Student Chapter of American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists and ChemoGLO, a biotech company where William Zamboni, a UNC professor, is scientific advisor.
There is no cost to attend, as an important focus of the program is to make it available to all students. Friedman said he greatly desires to be inclusive of all students. He said ideally in the future, it will be able to secure enough external funding to cover outside expenses such as transportation and a stipend to provide the interns with pay.
“If we could only get them access to resources, then not only would they benefit in their professional development, but we would benefit," Friedman said. "The more minds you have, the better able society is able to solve its problems."
This first summer, Friedman said 18 students are participating in the program.
“It’s becoming real, and now the question is ‘will I have any impact’” he said.
Friedman said it is exciting to see the program launch and he hopes it will become a cornerstone of the opportunities offered at the Pharmacy School.
“I’m very excited to see the program get started and to meet the first group of YIP interns.”
Kristy Ainslie is one of the professors who will host a student intern in her lab. She said they will study immune therapies to treat and prevent infectious diseases and learn about formulating more effective and safer vaccines.
Ainslie said it is an excellent opportunity for them to experience science outside of the books and is a great way to get people excited about science.
“The whole goal is for the student to do things independently, because that’s where they’ll really get a flavor for it more than having someone stand over them and telling them what to do every second,” she said.
She said the program will immerse the students in the problem solving and trial-and-error environment that is true research and will give them the opportunity to discover what they love. Finding out what you love early, she said, is an invaluable tool.
Joe Moore, an institute fellow at the Eshelman Institute for Innovation, who is helping with the program and will run problem solving workshops, said he is especially excited about the program because of how it reaches out to underserved students. He said he hopes it will inspire them and make them comfortable with stepping out of their comfort zones.
“This is a really unique opportunity to get students, some of whom are an unrepresented population in science, to get exposure to world-class science, world-class laboratories and scientists, and hopefully give them the confidence and the perspective that their future can include a school like this, UNC, and a career like pharmacy or pharmaceutical science," Moore said.
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