KEYS Program for High School Students Brings Young Scientists to UA

Research Showcase morning of July 22 caps off end of 10th summer of Arizona youth interning in Wildcat laboratories

Forty-four high school students from across Arizona will present research they have been working on in UA labs this summer at a Keep Engaging Youth in Science (KEYS) Research Showcase Friday, July 22, 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., in the Institute of the Environment building (Environment and Natural Resources 2) at 1064 E. Lowell St., Tucson.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the KEYS internship program for high school students, held each summer at the University of Arizona. The summer program is recognized as one of the state’s standout pathways for developing science interests and skills in pre-college students. Participation has grown from only nine students in its inaugural year of 2007 to as many as 48 interns in recent years.

KEYS has flourished under the direction of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center at the UA College of Pharmacy, as well as the UA BIO5 Institute.

Lisa Romero, senior director of public affairs and communications for the UA BIO5 Institute, is delighted with the summer internship’s progress.

“We are so proud to be part of the outstanding team that brings this program to life every year. It is inherent in BIO5’s mission to support unique programs that engage and inspire our next generation of scientists, and KEYS is now a national model for how to do this, even at the pre-college stage.”

The seven-week program takes students through intense laboratory and science literacy training and provides hands-on research experience at the UA. Each intern is placed in the lab of a faculty mentor and is trained to contribute to research being conducted in the lab.

Catharine Smith, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the UA College of Pharmacy and member of BIO5, has been a KEYS mentor for nine years and is confident the program greatly influences students and their future careers.

“I think it’s important for high school students to understand what kind of options are out there for research careers,” Dr. Smith says. “The students can come here and work in a research lab that is focused on a scientific question to add more knowledge to the field. I think it’s important for high school students to be exposed to that so that when they go to a university like the University of Arizona, they know there are great options out there, and that they can get involved in lab research to see what it’s like before they make a career choice.”

This year, Eugene Wang, who attends BASIS Tucson North high school, was presented the opportunity to work in Smith’s lab through KEYS.

“Normally, high school students aren’t given the opportunity to work in a lab because it is a huge responsibility,” says Wang. “So once I was accepted into the program, I thought it would be great to spend my summer with other high school students learning how the scientific process works in unique work environments such as the University of Arizona labs.”


About the University of Arizona BIO5 Institute

The BIO5 Institute at the University of Arizona mobilizes top researchers in agriculture, engineering, medicine, pharmacy and science to find creative solutions to humanity’s most pressing health and environmental challenges. Since 2001, this interdisciplinary approach has been an international model of how to conduct collaborative research, and has resulted in improved food crops, innovative diagnostics and devices and promising new therapies. Learn more at

About the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center at the UA College of Pharmacy

The Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center is a collaborative and interdisciplinary research center that actively investigates the health effects of environmental agents and serves as a resource for the community. The center works closely with National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to solve complex and ever-changing issues in environmental health. Find more information at

About the University of Arizona Health Sciences

The University of Arizona Health Sciences is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. The UA Health Sciences includes the UA Colleges of Medicine (Phoenix and Tucson), Nursing, Pharmacy and Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, with main campus locations in Tucson and the growing Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. From these vantage points, the UA Health Sciences reaches across the state of Arizona and the greater Southwest to provide cutting-edge health education, research, patient care and community outreach services. A major economic engine, the UA Health Sciences employs almost 5,000 people, has nearly 1,000 faculty members and garners more than $126 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information: