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Mini-fellowship Program Attracts High School Students into Science Careers

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Nearly all the high school students who participate in a summer mini-fellowship-in-research program at Wake Forest University School of Medicine go on to a four-year college, and most to science-related majors, new figures show.

M. Ann Lambros, Ph.D., assistant dean for medical education and director of the Center of Excellence for Research, Teaching and Learning (CERTL) at the medical school, said that 72 percent of the summer students were minorities and 70 percent were females.

“One of the primary goals is to attract talented youth, especially those in underrepresented populations, to careers in math, science and technology with an emphasis on health careers and biomedicine,” Lambros said. “The mini-fellowship gives them the opportunity to participate in hands-on activities which builds the confidence for success needed to pursue such a career interest.”

Since the summer mini-fellowships began in 1997, 201 students have participated, she said.

Of the 115 successfully tracked after high school, 112 either have attended or are currently attending four-year universities. Of the 90 students who declared a major, 62 students or nearly 70 percent are in a math, science or technology major. The other 22 have yet to declare a major.

As of 2005, 78 had graduated from college. Five are in medical school or applying to medical school and another is in dental school. Another eight are in other graduate programs.

Of the 21 already in the work force, six are working for medical centers, three are teachers, one is at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in the Research Triangle Park, and one is working for the Drug-Free North Carolina program.

Lambros said that during the mini-fellowship, the students are paired with School of Medicine and Winston Salem State University faculty mentors. For six weeks, for 40 hours a week, they become an active member of the faculty member’s research team.

“Students learn the research process, the specifics of the mentors’ on-going research project, and related laboratory procedures and produce their own interpretation of the research through the development of an oral presentation and web page,” Lambros said

At the end of the program, the students are asked to present their work at a Student Research Symposium. Lambros said the symposium was modeled on a typical scientific conference. About 175 faculty and invited guests attend.

Of the 112 students who went to college, 78 ended up at University of North Carolina system schools (including 21 at Chapel Hill, 11 at N.C. State, 10 at N.C. A&T, nine at UNC Charlotte, eight at UNC Greensboro, and five at Winston-Salem State.) Another 19 went to private schools in North Carolina, including nine at Wake Forest, three at Duke and two at Salem College.

And 15 went to out-of-state schools, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cornell University and the University of Virginia.

Students have completed the application process for the 2006 program.

“Students are selected on the basis of their performance in math and science courses, their demonstrated interest in science as a career and their perceived level of motivation,” Lambros said. “Teachers, guidance counselors and principals are asked to specifically recruit students from underrepresented and minority groups.”

With support from the National Science Foundation, CERTL began in 1996 as a program for both professional development of K-12 teachers and enrichment opportunities for K-12 students. Current support is provided by the National Institutes of Health and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

One overall CERTL goal is to increase the number of students who achieve success in K-12 science and math courses and who pursue mathematics, the sciences, engineering and technology at the college level.

One CERTL specialty is its Problem-Based Learning Institute, which was developed in partnership with the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, and is based in part on experience in teaching medical students using an approach that emphasizes solving patient cases.

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Media Contacts: Robert Conn, rconn@wfubmc.edu, Shannon Koontz, shkoontz@wfubmc.edu, or Karen Richardson, krchrdsn@wfubmc.edu, at (336) 716-4587.

Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center is an academic health system comprised of North Carolina Baptist Hospital and Wake Forest University Health Sciences, which operates the university’s School of Medicine. U.S. News & World Report ranks Wake Forest University School of Medicine 30th in primary care, 41st in research and 14th in geriatrics training among the nation's medical schools. It ranks 32nd in research funding by the National Institutes of Health. Almost 150 members of the medical school faculty are listed in Best Doctors in America.

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