WAKE FOREST UNIVERSITY
AWARD YEAR: 2021
WAKE FOREST UNIVERSITY
DIRECTOR: REBECCA ALEXANDER, PH.D.
PROJECT TITLE: WAKE FOREST LEAP
While there are numerous extracurricular opportunities for young students to be exposed to STEM in Forsyth County, there are far fewer hands-on opportunities for older students to explore STEM and related careers. Those opportunities that do exist for older students are typically unpaid or only available to those with a familial connection, leaving predominantly underrepresented and economically disadvantaged students with even less access than their peers. This is a gap that we have the capacity and the desire to address. If awarded, funds will be used to launch a long-term, paid, lab-based summer internship program for high school students. The Wake Forest LEAP (Lab Experiences: Academics and Professions) program, which will be located at Wake Forest University, will target underrepresented minority students who otherwise would not be able to have a meaningful STEM-based internship.
Over the course of six weeks, each student will benefit from working with two Wake Forest co-mentors. These co-mentors will broadly introduce the intern to the foundations of their discipline and the research projects conducted in the lab. All interns will learn about the principles of the scientific method, how to maintain a lab notebook, fundamental lab safety, and use of specialized instrumentation. Each intern will develop and complete a project that will be shared at the end of the summer in a symposium attended by all interns, their mentors, and their parents.
Professional development and career exploration across STEM disciplines is a foundational element of the interns’ learning. The University’s Office of Personal and Career Development will lend their expertise, providing workshops on college and career readiness. Interns will also have several opportunities to practice their newly acquired skills and build on these workshops. When not working in their lab, interns will participate in activities designed to build their professional network and become more comfortable and confident in interview settings.
WF LEAP will consider students who display curiosity, resilience, and a desire to explore topics with which they may not have experience. Above all, curiosity and commitment are paramount to a student taking full advantage of all the benefits offered by WF LEAP.