An inaugural class of eight Pasadena Unified School District high school students are taking part in “potentially life-changing educational opportunities” during the first incarnation of the Huntington Medical Research Institute’s new Biomedical Research High School STEM program.
The six-week course started in June, “providing invaluable opportunities for these students to learn from and collaborate with HMRI research scientists and staff, a STEM instructor and undergraduate teaching assistant mentors from three colleges and universities,” the HMRI said in a written statement. Students are drawn from the 11th and 12th grades, with teacher recommendations.
The underlying goal is to help foster and encourage the next generation of doctors, scientists and researchers, said HMRI Associate Professor and Program Director Dr. Nicole Purcell.
“HMRI’s STEM program, which is geared toward students who may not otherwise have access to top-tier interactive educational programs in these fields, is providing participants hands-on opportunities to explore new and uncharted solutions to some of healthcare’s biggest challenges, like heart disease, Alzheimer’s and mental illness — and have fun in the process,” she said.
Classes are held both virtually and in-person.
The program seems to be a hit with the students so far, according to HMRI President and CEO Julia E. Bradsher.
“We’re delighted that this program is being so well received by the students,” she said. “We can’t wait to see how this experience will impact the students, and long term how, through the seeds planted here, they will impact the world for good in the future.”
The HMRI Biomedical Research High School STEM program is made possible through funding by Pasadena residents and doctors Sonia and Neil Singla, as well as a grant from The Confidence Foundation, representatives said.
While HMRI has previously offered summer research programs for undergraduate college students, Bradsher said the institution was thrilled to be able to open up such opportunities for even younger students.
“Thanks to the generosity of [the Singlas] and The Confidence Foundation grant, HMRI now is realizing its goal of making a greater impact in the community by expanding our summer programming to include underserved high school students. We couldn’t be more grateful to these generous donors,” she said.
Dr. Sonia Singla sits on the HMRI board of directors and serves as chief administrative officer at Lotus Clinical Research in Pasadena.
“STEM has always been the future and it’s vital that all students have access to these types of programs,” she said. “There is a generalized myth out there that science and technology is only for a certain type of student, and I want to debunk that and make STEM integral to all learners and curricula.
“I want kids to be exposed to STEM and demystify and normalize science and research,” she added. “I want kids to know there is not just a prescribed path if they choose a career in science or medicine, there are many creative and innovative career choices in STEM! I’m thrilled HMRI chose to start a STEM program for local Pasadena kids ensuring all of our kids in our community have access and opportunities for a brighter future.”
More information is available on the Huntington Medical Research Institute’s website hmri.org.