August 7, 2012
By MELISSA REPKO
UNIVERSITY PARK — Instead of pitching tents and paddling canoes, 77 middle school students live in dorms and dissect fetal pigs.
For these young scientists, it’s just another day of summer camp at SMU.
The students, some as young as 11, are part of the Physician-Scientist Training Program, which aims to increase the number of minorities pursuing careers in science and medicine. It is part of renewed efforts across the country to boost achievement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The Physician-Scientist Training Program takes a long-range approach. Instead of trying to spark interest through flashy experiments or miniature volcanoes, it identifies promising students at an early age and works with them from middle school to college.
In seventh and eighth grade, they study each summer at Southern Methodist University. From ninth grade to college graduation, they spend eight weeks at research labs around the country, training to become the next generation of scientists, doctors, engineers and researchers.
The program is funded by nonprofit organizations, including the O’Donnell Foundation and United Health Foundation.
Moses Williams, executive director, founded the program in 1990 when he was admissions director for Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia.
“As a gatekeeper, I realized there were not a lot of minorities being considered,” he recalled. “I wanted to change that.”
Now, he works as a research professor at SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development. He introduces a bright, diverse group of students to the university in the hopes that they will return for college.
“This is the future of America,” Williams said. “The ones that make the discoveries will come from programs like this.”
He compares it to training young athletes: Identify talent early and then nurture it through practice and coaching.
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