When Chapman University’s School of Pharmacy started the Pharmacy Summer Research Program for high school students last year, Associate Professor Hamid Montazeri thought a few students would sign up.
They got 20, including an application from China.
This year, they got 47 applications.
“It has exceeded our wildest dreams,” said Montazeri, who is in his second year directing the program.
The goal of the program is to serve the community by showing high schoolers what pharmacists do and what research in pharmaceutical sciences entails. They learn to use scientific literature to complete and present a research project, under the guidance of faculty members.
Atrin Jafari, who will be a junior at Arnold O. Beckman High School in Irvine, was already interested in working in health care when she found out about the program.
“It definitely opened up a new door of possibility for me,” she said, adding that a particular motivator was the school’s APEx five-year accelerated doctor of pharmacy program.
She also enjoyed learning about faculty members’ specialties. Her faculty mentor was Associate Professor Karl Hess, who studies travel medicine.
Erica Kim, an incoming senior at Sunny Hills High School in Fullerton, said she’d never had an experience like the summer research program.
Learning about Montazeri’s research into delivery systems targeting cancer cells was interesting “because a lot of things he’s talking about I’m learning, especially in bio or chem, but he goes into more depth,” she said.
Benjamin Schwartz, who will be a sophomore at TVT Community Day School in Irvine, said he wanted to learn about how pharmacists conduct research.
“It’s been an amazing experience and eye-opening to see how things are done,” he said.
The high school students also did lab tests to observe processes like blood clotting, made a pharmaceutical gel in the compounding lab, asked current students questions about everything from study habits to juggling extracurricular activities, and got advice from the School of Pharmacy’s career specialist.
Montazeri said more information was added this year to enhance the campus experience. Organizers considered that families look for summer programs for their high schoolers, and they wanted the research program to be inclusive.
The program gained interest mainly through word of mouth and contacts at local high schools, he said.
“It’s amazing how students start planning for their futures so early,” he said.
The high school summer research program supports Chapman’s strategic plan goal to strengthen and expand graduate health science programs, advancing health care to meet community need.