The University Record, November 5, 1997

Summer program brings high school students and teachers to pharmacy labs

Tiffany Powell works in a pharmacy lab.


By Kerry Colligan

Last summer, five Ann Arbor area high school students and two area high school teachers came to labs to learn new skills and interact with graduate students and faculty as part of the College of Pharmacy's National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) pro gram.

The programfunded by a National Institutes of Health granthas two primary goals: to bring minority students to campus to heighten their interest in careers in science or research; and to bring teachers to advance and renew their research interests. M ore than 100 students have participated in the program since it began in 1980, says Valener Perry, assistant dean for student services. Of those, she adds, more than 80 percent pursued collegiate degrees in a science field.

One of those students is U-M freshman Tiffany Powell. Powell was a lab apprentice in the program last summer, working with Vijendra Singh, assistant research scientist. Engaged in library research, hands-on lab work, and formal and informal discussion with faculty and graduate students, Powell helped develop techniques for treating children with autism.

"I'm glad I worked in the lab before I came [to college]. Ms. Perry has taken the role of mentor for me; I have several friends and connections already in place," Powell says. "I learned a lot about research. I definitely want to incorporate that into whatever I'm doing." Powell and Singh worked well enough together that Singh has extended an open invitation to her to rejoin the lab. Powell says she is busy adjusting to collegiate life, but plans to return to Singh's lab in the near future.

High school teachers entered the program six years ago. Charles Backus, general science and anatomy teacher at Livonia Stevenson High School, worked with Kevin Rice in developing a new laboratory to train Pharm.D. students in drug analysis. The major b enefit of the program for Backus, and one he says is needed among his peers, was the opportunity to learn and use the most up-to-date research equipment.

"I will probably never use a GC (gas chromatograph) or mass spectrometer in a high school classroom, but it is useful to know how they work. I am now better prepared to field students' questions," Backus says.

That, according to Perry, is the purpose of the program. Teacher participation includes "strengthening their technical skills, updating them on research endeavors in the lab and encouraging them to show their enthusiasm for research to their students," she says. Other participants in the program last summer were students Lan Chang, Huron High School; Christopher Eaglin, Greenhills High School; Agam Patel, Lincoln High School; and Nyota Pieh, Pioneer High School; and chemistry teacher Eugene Hernandez, Southweste rn High School.

Additional information on the activities of the 1997 program, including more detailed descriptions of the research projects on which participants worked, is available on the Web at: http://www.umich.edu/~pharmacy/calendar/ncrrprog/ncrr.frontpage.html.