Building bioscientists for tomorrow
Several dozen San Antonio high schoolers have traded in three years’ worth of lazy summer vacations for the opportunity to play a role in cutting-edge scientific research at the UT Health Science Center.
The teens are part of the Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker Biomedical Research Academy, which seeks to develop the next generation of biomedical scientists. Voelcker scholars first spend a summer learning basic laboratory techniques. Then, paired with faculty mentors, they head into the labs to participate in actual scientific research. The inaugural Voelcker class – all rising high school juniors this year – hit the labs this summer.
The Voelcker Academy is one of a number of pipeline programs at the Health Science Center that seek out talented young people with an interest in health and science careers. Other programs include the annual Science Expo, which attracts more than 1,000 students each fall, and the Med Ed Program for high school and college students from Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley.
“I believe there is amazing student potential here in our own backyard, and sometimes we lose sight of all the wonderful students that are right here in our community,” said Irene Chapa, Ph.D., director of the Office of Recruitment and Science Outreach and co-director of the Voelcker Academy. “Having a local presence in the community and opportunities for our local students is very important.”
Sophia Piña, Ph.D., assistant dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and co-director of the Voelcker Academy, said Voelcker students are exposed to technology and dedicated research scientists across the Health Science Center’s five schools: “They see firsthand how together we are working to find solutions and answer tough questions through research.”
Brian Herman, Ph.D., vice president for research at the Health Science Center, is principal investigator for the Voelcker Academy. David Jones, Ph.D., associate dean for admissions in the School of Medicine, is executive director of the university’s pipeline programs.