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High-schoolers from five countries assisted in research at the UI

BY BILL COONEY | JULY 27, 2015 5:00 AM

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While assisting with academic research is a job usually performed by high-level college students, this summer, high-school students will step up to the plate.

The Secondary Student Training Program at the University of Iowa is an opportunity for high-school students from around the world to participate in graduate level research while living on campus, said Lori Ihrig, the lead administrator for the program.

“There are a lot of summer camps out there for sports or performing arts but not that many for academics,” Ihrig said. “Students here can meet people like themselves who are interested in the same things as them.”

The program, run through the UI Belin-Blank Center, brought 31 high-school students from five different countries to live in Daum during the five-week period.

Sruthi Palaniappan, a high-school student from Linn-Marr, said the program was a great experience, especially heading into her senior year.

“It gave me a lot of good direction going into my senior year,” she said. “It’s been nice to experience the actual process of the job.”

Palaniappan assisted in research looking for predictors of miscarriage in in-vitro fertilization patients.

“I had no idea what I was doing when I first started,” she said. “I hadn’t thought about working in this field before now, but after this, I think it’s a prospect for me.”

The amount of progress Palaniappan made during the five-week program was impressive, said Joshua Kapfhamer, a UI fellow associate physican in endocrinology.

“She really makes high-school me feel inadequate,” Kapfhamer said. “She’s made incredible progress in a really short amount of time.”

Ihrig said the program aims to give high-school students experience on a research project much larger then they might see in school.

“It’s an opportunity for students to experience college level research,” she said. “A lot of the research they do in school, they only spend an hour or so a day on.”

Palaniappan said she enjoyed the level of research compared with school projects.

“It’s been fun to get really involved in the research,” She said. “I feel like a lot of the research projects in school are only for a few days or weeks at most. This will still be going on after the program.”

Ihrig said in the future the program would focus on getting faculty willing to have students placed with them.

“Our biggest limiting factor right now is finding faculty to place the students with,” she said. “We’re looking into branching out into other areas of research as well.”

Ihrig said the program and the Belin-Blank Center focuses on helping students excel academically no matter where they live.

“Imagine a teenager living in rural Iowa who is the only one for miles interested in say, engineering,” Ihrig said. “We believe a students opportunity to excel should not be limited by their zip code.”


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