SAN DIEGO — The Salk Institute is a place where the founder, Jonas Salk, had a vision to inspire students to explore STEM opportunities.
"Ever since I was little, my dad had a little garden and I was always so curious how plants grew in the soil and it was very fun to me," said Ismerai Barragan, student at the Preuss School UCSD.
That curiosity about plants is what inspired Barragan to get involved in Salk Institute’s summer scholar program.
She is one of 12 local high school students selected out of 250 candidates to participate in the 8-week program, which provides students with full-time paid positions to assist Salk scientists with research projects.
"My favorite experiment so far is when we saw how plants grow in four different conditions, two dark and two light and we were able to compare them," said Evelyn Parra, student at Sage Creek High School which specializes in STEM fields.
"I was always so curious about science, so definitely being in STEM interests me. Being here at Salk has helped me see that I can help change the world through my interests and curiosity," said Barragan.
Students first attend a boot camp to learn basic science skills needed for the laboratory. They then spend 7-weeks in the lab learning how to formulate and test hypotheses, prepare experiments, and draw conclusions.
"I think being in the lab everyday gets you in the mindset of a scientist which is really cool," said Parra.
"It's really fun. It's a nice place to work, especially in the greenhouse. It’s a great experience," said Barragan.
They also learn how to take part in regular lab meetings.
"STEM opportunities are so lucrative for students and helps us move forward the next generation. Jonas Salk believed it is our responsibility to be good ancestors and that is what our program is, is to train the next generation of students to be great scientists," said Monika Wertparkinson, Director of Public Programs for Salk Institute.
"More people should be involved because it is the future of our generations and Earth, so I think being in STEM is a great career path," said Parra.
At the end of the program, students present a Capstone project in front of their mentors and peers.
Barragan hopes to purse a career in botany or field biology.
"It is worth it for sure. You get to see results and how it impacts people and learn a lot along the way and learn the strength to change the world," said Barragan.
They start taking new student applications in January next year. To learn more about the summer scholar program, click here.
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