TUCSON, Ariz. – With college looming, Carlos Ramirez was drawn to the health sciences field but wanted to make sure it would be his calling. He figured the best way to explore this was KEYS.
KEYS (Keep Engaging Youth in Science) is a summer internship program in which exceptional Arizona high school students gain hands-on experience in scientific research at the University of Arizona.
“I wanted to know if research was my true calling and what area of research interests me the most,” said Ramirez, who recently graduated from Pueblo High School in Tucson.
Even though he almost is finished with the program, Ramirez has enjoyed his time in KEYS.
“I really enjoy my time in the lab where I can put into place the knowledge I acquired in my biotech courses,” he said. “The real-world applications provided through this program make it a successful experience.”
“I found out about KEYS from one of my teachers who posted it in his classroom. I applied last year but wasn’t going to be able to attend due to prior engagements,” Ramirez said. “I applied this year because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go into medical practice or research, plus I wanted the internship experience.”
Ramirez is researching how different members of the oryza species genetically have changed and where those differences show up in other members of the species.
Ramirez is studying with Rod Wing, PhD, a professor with the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and a member of the UA BIO5 Institute, and Dave Kudrna, coordinator of the BAC/EST Resource Center.
Dr. Wing got involved with and mentored students in the KEYS program for the past three years.
“It is a great way to expose young minds to the fields of science and, in our case, the field of genome research and plant biology,” Dr. Wing said.
Kudrna has been involved since the KEYS program inception and says being a part of the program is great for his work and for him.
“I love seeing the excitement in upcoming students who are passionate about science and how we are able to develop their curiosity,” he said. “We have weekly meetings where we talk about new technology and how we can better utilize it in not only our work but our lives.”
According to both of his mentors, Ramirez has shown a knack for research.
“He’s right there at the top of kids we’ve had in the program,” Kudrna said. “He’s a sharp kid who’s shown that he wants to be here.”
Ramirez will be an incoming freshman at the University of Pennsylvania where he plans to major in biology.
“My plans are to start with general courses and see what concentration I like the most,” Ramirez said. “Hopefully I'll find a long-term interest and start my career in the health sciences.”