Annual STAR Program trains next generation of researchers

The Summer Training in Academic Research (STAR) Program welcomed 25 participants at its kickoff event Monday, June 17, at the Duke Clinical Research Institute (DCRI) in Durham, N.C. Now in its seventh year, the program provides hands-on research experience for undergraduate students, high school students, and middle and high school teachers during the summer academic break.

“The purpose of the program is to make sure we’re giving these students the opportunity to learn each day about various aspects of clinical research,” said Dr. Kanecia Zimmerman, leader of the program and associate professor of pediatrics at Duke University Medical Center. “The students may have never thought seriously about a career in medical research, and they come away thinking, ‘This is actually something I can do.’”

During the eight-week program, participants are placed in teams and matched with faculty mentors to work on original, hypothesis-driven projects. Participants also receive intensive instruction in developing scientific manuscripts, applied statistics, and data analysis.

A goal of the program is to have every trainee qualify for co-authorship on a peer-reviewed manuscript related to their team’s project. The research completed by the students will actually be used to further pediatric studies being conducted for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Nicholas Paredes, STAR program participant and rising high school sophomore from Sarasota, Fla., plans to earn a doctorate in biochemistry and biological engineering so he can focus his career on the testing of different medical treatments.

“I am particularly interested in conducting medical research and collaborating with others, knowing that the results would be used to improve existing technology,” he said. “Through the STAR program and the mentorship that is offered to its participants, I expect to work with renowned mentors and cooperate with my fellow members in a research team to write an academic paper that will successfully demonstrate the findings of our investigations.”

In addition to the research project, program participants attend lectures on neonatology, antimicrobial therapy, pharmacoepidemiology, and medical ethics. Eligible students also experience clinical medicine firsthand by shadowing a physician on hospital rounds.

Visit the STAR Program website for more information.

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