Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, demand continues to skyrocket for the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CTSI) K-12 Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) summer programs for high school students. More than 400 students applied to participate in one of five affiliated programs: American Chemical Society Summer Experience for the Economically Disadvantaged (SEED), Indianapolis Project STEM, the IUPUI School of Engineering and Technology’s nanotechnology program, the IUPUI School of Science’s physics program, and the IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center Future Scientists Program. Of those applicants, 150 were selected to participate and have started virtual summer internships this month, which will continue for six or eight weeks.
Mentors from the IU School of Medicine Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology are joining the program for the first time this year, sponsoring ten high school students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds for a summer internship, followed by ongoing one-on-one mentorship through the end of the calendar year. The gastroenterology and hepatology summer STEM programs are being led by Toyia James-Stevenson, MD, and Lauren Nephew, MD.
James-Stevenson was born and raised in Indianapolis. Originally thinking she would become a lawyer since writing came easily to her, James-Stevenson decided she wanted more of a challenge, so she participated in the SEED/STEM program through her high school, Arsenal Tech. Her first mentor was Lawrence Doolin, the first Black scientist with a PhD to have a lab at Eli Lilly and Company many years ago.
“He was teaching us to think at a higher level than what we were taught in the books,” said James-Stevenson, who is an associate professor of clinical medicine at IU School of Medicine. “He would bring stuff from his own lab so we could apply what we learned in the books to experiments being done at Lilly. When someone believes in you and sees potential in you, you start to believe in yourself as well. You see them as a role model and you see that’s it’s possible to be a PhD scientist, since he was an African American male who ran a lab at Lilly. I could do the same.”
Another one of James-Stevenson’s mentors also currently works at IU School of Medicine: Patricia Treadwell, MD, who serves as a special advisor to the dean, as well as Chief Diversity Officer. James-Stevenson remembers shadowing Treadwell after her junior year of high school.
“The thing I remember most was the level of respect everyone had for Dr. Treadwell,” said James-Stevenson. “When they talked about her, they didn’t mention her as an African American physician. They would talk about how she was the only double board-certified physician in pediatrics and dermatology.”
Treadwell said she was interested in mentoring because underrepresented students in medicine (URIM) often did not have medical role models available. She also learned a lot from the students and encouraged them to pursue their dreams. Treadwell recalled a student she mentored who had a teenage mother.
“One of the medical clerks was able to provide information about applying to college and applying for scholarships, which the student’s guidance counselor had not helped with,” said Treadwell, who is also a Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics and Professor Emeritus of Dermatology at IU School of Medicine. “I was also able to point out to my colleagues that the babies with teen mothers had potential.”
Becoming a mentor through the Indiana CTSI K12 STEM program was an easy decision for James-Stevenson.
“The only reason I went to undergrad at Georgetown University as a chemistry major and believed I could be successful was because Dr. Doolin had already done that decades before,” said James-Stevenson. “The only reason I became a physician was because I had mentors who looked like me at every level, including Dr. Treadwell. To see them in action was invaluable.”
Nephew was an Indiana CTSI KL2 Early Career Investigator Award winner in 2018, studying racial disparities in curative therapies for hepatocellular carcinoma.
Students participating in the Indianapolis Project SEED and Indianapolis Project STEM summer programs work on a longitudinal research project that in traditional years concludes with a poster session and symposia for student to present their research findings. This year, in response to the pandemic, the programs are all virtual and will conclude with several virtual symposia where students will make oral presentations to showcase their research experience.
2021 summer participants by the numbers:
More than 110 students were accepted into the Indianapolis Project STEM program sponsored by the Indiana CTSI in collaboration with numerous institutions that include Eli Lilly and Company, the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute, the Regenstrief Institute, and all the IUPUI campus schools related to STEM education – Medicine, Dentistry, Science, Engineering and Technology, Informatics and Computing, and Health and Human Sciences. Indianapolis Project STEM is an umbrella program for students from all backgrounds who want to explore a career in any of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, such as medicine, dentistry, computer science, information technology, life sciences, chemistry, biomedical engineering and more.
The American Chemical Society (ACS) SEED program accepted 10 students to participate in this year’s pilot Virtual Research Program and 35 students to participate in the ACS Virtual Camp. The American Chemical Society Project SEED provides economically disadvantaged high school students from central Indiana with an opportunity to explore a career in science. Students devote a summer to being a research intern with hands-on experiences in a professional laboratory setting. The program was established by the American Chemical Society in 1968 and at the IU School of Medicine in 1973.
The IUPUI School of Engineering and Technology’s Nanotechnology program accepted ten students.
The IUPUI School of Science Physics program also accepted ten students.
The IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center accepted eight students from Marion County into the Future Scientists Program and additional high school and undergraduates in the Summer Research Program that serves graduating high school seniors, in addition to undergraduates.
If you are interested in making a gift to support the Indiana CTSI K12 STEM program, you can learn more here.