Young Innovators Program

University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

Director:   Samuel Lai, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Director, Pharmacoengineering Program
UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy
Chapel Hill, NC
lai@unc.edu

Project:   Young Innovators Program: an immersive research experiential program at the Eshelman School of Pharmacy

The Young Innovators Program (YIP) at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy is a pre-college STEM enhancement program that brings 24-30 high school students from diverse social and economic backgrounds for a nine week summer immersive research experience at UNC, followed by additional education and research opportunities for the following academic year.  Summer activities include a week long lab skills boot camp, eight week research internships in some of the leading laboratories in the country where interns gain hands on training in the scientific method, 8 career panel discussions, discussions and brainstorming of innovative pharmacy practices, and education and training at UNC makerspaces.  Year-long activities include continuing online education opportunities through Durham Tech, potential additional research opportunities and mentorship.  There are both End-of-Summer and End-of-Year symposia where the interns share with teachers, parents and others in the community their projects and progress.  Finally, there are comprehensive quantitative and qualitative assessment of the program to not only ensure we are meeting our ambitious goal of enhancing STEM interests among a diverse spectrum of high school students from different social economic backgrounds, but also to guide continual evolution of the program and to enable us to disseminate evidence-based best practices. Our vision is for YIP to become an exemplary model for how professional schools in higher education can contribute towards enhancing STEM competitiveness among students from underrepresented social and economic backgrounds, and motivate other professional schools in the region and across the country to do the same.