High school students intern as researchers in the College of Science

By Marc Speir
University News Service
June 20, 2007

Five students from Kyle-based Lehman High School are currently interning as research assistants in the College of Science at Texas State University-San Marcos in a program designed to inspire youths to pursue careers in science.

Participating students from the high school include: Chris Chovanec, Alex Rasche, Brandy Dodson, Danny Palmer and Stephanie Ortega.

The university invited the students to partake in clinical research settings averaging four- to eight-week intervals. Lehman High School science coordinator Laura Bajza nominated pupils based on their potential and commitment to study science-based careers.

Each student is assigned an individual faculty member and works on different projects within the college, ranging from biology, physics and chemistry.

“This is a pilot program to show students all we have at the university,” said Hector Flores, dean of the College of Science. “Hopefully, they will want to come back as undergraduates.”

Professor of biology Dana Garcia is overseeing the work of Chris Chovanec in dissecting fish retinas. Chovanec is learning ways to identify specific proteins to detect tissues, genes and nucleic acids.

“Each one is doing something different,” Garcia said. “They’re all getting to focus in on something more intensely than they could (at the high school level).”

In the U.S., the sciences have been waning as a career choice for new generations of students.

“The lack of a workforce we’re cranking out is disturbing,” Flores said. “The prospects are not looking very good.”

Flores cited problems with secondary education teaching in the sciences in the K-12 level and a need to partner with other agencies.

“There are definitely problems,” said Garcia. “There’s a real desire for students to be instant experts instead of patiently working their way through.”

Other nations have sharply increased the sizes of their science and engineering programs in higher education, training greater numbers to compete against the U.S. Flores says a program such as the one in the College of Science contributes to providing a solution.

“There is nothing like good will to forge strong partnerships,” Flores said. “We’re a Hispanic serving institution and it’s important for us to link with our community. This is a great place to start.”

The College of Education is also committed to enhancing the number of science-based careers in partnership with the College of Science. For more information on their efforts, visit: http://www.txstate.edu/news/news_releases/news_archive/2007/04/T-STEM042407.html.