Student Savors UT Southwestern’s Summer of Science

By: Aadhya Yanamadala

My left hand brushed over expensive, shiny lab equipment, while my right clutched a flask of a toxic liquid with an unpronounceable name. 

Turning to my friend to confirm heating the glass wouldn’t make it explode, I had a realization: I was performing experiments that few high schoolers get the chance to do before college.  

As part of its STARS (Science Teacher Access to Resources at Southwestern) program, UT Southwestern Medical Center offers summer camps to encourage youth interest in science careers and give students a head start on next year’s coursework.  

Students are encouraged to apply based on the courses they will be taking in the next school year. 

STARS also offers a middle school camp to prepare campers for high school biology, chemistry, physics, anatomy/physiology, and biotechnology programs.

After each of my three summers of STARS camps, I’ve seen a noticeable difference between my classmates and myself during science class.

The STARS programs made concepts far easier to comprehend during the school year, and I’ve found myself able to dive into topics and develop a personal interest in the material.  

Campers have the rare opportunity to work in UT Southwestern classrooms and labs, where they spend half their mornings conducting experiments related to the material covered that day.

“I think students love that they have the opportunity to do so many hands-on activities,” Kristie Connor, the program coordinator, said. “We hear from a lot of students who say that they don’t do many labs at their schools, and they enjoy doing experiments here because they learn a lot.”  

Teachers from North Texas school districts teach the coursework.

“The camp is like a professional development experience for the teachers,” Connor said. “They get to learn some new labs and teaching techniques and get to practice with the campers before the new year begins.”  

After lunch, students participate in activities that encourage STEM-oriented careers.  

Those include helping professors and award-winning scientists in their labs, attending lectures from UT Southwestern researchers and doctors, and touring hospital departments.  

When I attended the Chemistry Camp last summer, we prepared wells of solution for a lab researching schistosomiasis, a parasitic disease. 

I clearly remember my fellow campers leaning forward on the edge of their seats, captivated by every word the scientists said. Many of my friends have now expressed interest in working in a similar lab.  

“A lot of students enjoy being in the labs or going on tours,” senior education coordinator Pearlie Crawford said. “They get to see the real-world applications of some of the things they learned in the camp, which is really beneficial.”  

I can’t wait to spend my fourth summer in air-conditioned labs and lecture halls filled with knowledge.  

Aadhya Yanamadala, a sophomore at The Hockaday School, plans to intern with People Newspapers this summer. 

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