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Who Is Training Our Future Biomedical Scientists?

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Voelcker Biomedical Research Academy

Author: Sophia Pina, Ph.D. | Category: Around Campus | July 14, 2014

Walking the grounds at the UT Health Science Center this summer are 63 high school students from school districts across San Antonio and the surrounding area from the Voelcker Biomedical Research Academy. The three year Voelcker Academy, now in its’ 6th year and funded by the Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker Fund, has graduated 60 Voelcker alumni. This biomedical research education and college preparatory program holds great promise to train the next generation of biomedical scientists for San Antonio.

The Voelcker Academy Scholar alumni are now spread across the nation as students in some of our country’s top universities and colleges. With our nation’s high school graduation rate of 78.2% and college readiness rate of 26%, the Voelcker Academy alumni have a 100% high school graduation rate with a 100% college readiness rate. The strength of the program is its network of

relationships between high school teachers, school district leaders and the health science center scientists and staff. Without these relationships, pipeline programs like the Voelcker Academy could not succeed. Faculty from across the university provide research seminars and foster mentoring relationships while our graduate students and postdoctoral research fellows also participate by teaching didactic lectures and hands-on laboratory sessions. 

. Borries Demeler, Professor of Biochemistry has mentored high school and undergraduate students since 1997, and finds his interactions with the students rewarding and productive: “These students are extremely motivated and engaged, they lighten up my day and their ideas continue to amaze me. The quality of their scientific work is suitable for publication.” He recently published two manuscripts, one in Biophysical Journal on methods to study the conformational variability of DNA, and one in Analytical Chemistry on the characterization of silver nanoparticles and fluorescent quantum dots where several students from the Voelcker Academy as well as students from the NISD Mentorship Program contributed and were included as co-authors. Blanca Hernandez-Uribe, a Voelcker Scholar alumni, and Aysha Demeler advanced to the International Intel Science and Engineering Fair for the second year in a row after placing first grand prize in the Physics team division at the Alamo Regional Science Fair with projects from Dr. Demeler's lab. They were also recently recognized for their research efforts by winning best undergraduate poster at the annual Terry Mikiten Graduate Student Research Symposium. 

There are many more extremely talented high school and undergraduate students from pipeline programs at the UT Health Science Center who would love to find a mentor at the HSC. Dr. Demeler encourages anyone with an interest to consider one of several mentoring opportunities to give these students a leg up to the future of biomedical science.

Featured Students:

Brandon Franco - Science and Engineering Academy (John Jay SEA)

Haram Kim - Health Careers High School

Chris Nash - Texas Military Institute

Jessica Tuholshy - The Atonement Academy

Bianca Hernandez Uribe - Alamo Heights

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