In a fourth-floor laboratory in the Farnam Memorial Building, G’Nee Herbert uses a pipette to prepare samples of mouse DNA for analysis. Her task is to ensure that a certain gene, PKC theta, has been eliminated from the mouse’s genome. Working under the supervision of research technician Crystal Bussey, she prepares an array of DNA for testing. “There are so many steps,” Bussey tells Herbert. “From start to finish it will take you a solid week.”
Unlike the others in the lab, Herbert is not a graduate student, postdoctoral fellow or medical student. About to enter her senior year at Hill Regional Career High School a few blocks from the medical center, she’s one of 65 students from the high school who spent three weeks this past summer living on the Yale campus while studying biology and chemistry. Herbert, 17, joined the program in its first year, three years ago, and has watched it expand from a two-week program with 15 students. “It prepares you for the next year,” Herbert says of the summer program, which is integrated into the science curriculum at Career. “You already have a step up when you get to chemistry.”
A longstanding relationship between the two schools has for several years brought Career students to the medical school and Yale-New Haven Hospital for classes and internships. The summer program, called SCHOLAR, for Science Collaborative Hands-On Learning and Research, allows students to sustain their interest in science and follow Career’s health professions education track.
Originally funded by the National Institutes of Health, last year the program received additional support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Career students who have just completed their freshman, sophomore or junior years live in Yale dormitories and study genetics, cellular and developmental biology, chemistry and biotechnology. The students also enjoy activities such as a picnic in East Rock Park in New Haven or a field trip to Branford’s Thimble Islands.
In classrooms and laboratories, the students try to solve problems such as this: A young camper has been brought to an emergency room suffering from headaches, a temperature and a rash, followed by a seizure. Students must suggest reasons for his symptoms, questions to ask his fellow campers and possible tests. As more information becomes available, students answer new sets of questions until they go to the laboratory to test samples of water. “After they have gone through the labs, they come up with a final presentation of what it is they think is going on with this problem,” says Liza Cariaga-Lo, Ph.D., until recently the director of multicultural affairs and SCHOLAR’s program director.
Career Principal Charles Williams says students return to school in the fall far more comfortable with critical thinking and problem-based learning. “It is very, very necessary for them to be exposed to some of the strategies that are promoted in the summer program,” Williams says.