From UNCG—On June 28, eight talented high school students took part in a white coat ceremony at the UNC Greensboro-NC A&T Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering.

The event marked their entry into the Draelos Science Scholars Program and the world of scientific research.

“When medical students get their white coat, they’re signing on to accepting responsibilities, and your white coat has much the same aim,” Dr. Zoe Draelos told the students. “It means you have been given a gift, and you’re going to accept it.”

The research dermatologist and her husband Dr. Michael Draelos founded the program to give local students opportunities for hands-on learning in science.

The program is one of High Point Community Foundation’s funding success stories. Through the Foundation, the Draelos established a donor advised fund to provide the ideal vehicle for underwriting what would become the Draelos Science Scholars program.

The new cohort of students will spend the summer working closely with four UNC Greensboro faculty – in nanoscience, psychology, biology, and chemistry and biochemistry – and an NC A&T professor in nanoengineering.

“This isn’t a trivial thing to commit to university-level research for the summer,” said UNCG’s Associate Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement Kimberly Littlefield at the event. “I have no doubt that this experience will establish a trailhead for future career and professional aspirations for the scholars.”

The 2019 cohort is the fourth class of Draelos Scholars, but it’s the first year the High Point Community Foundation program has formally partnered with UNCG. Students will take part in ongoing projects in their faculty mentor’s labs, learning technical skills as well as the process of conducting research along the way. Additional enrichment activities developed for the program will give participants a look at the diverse opportunities a career in science offers.

It’s also an opportunity for the faculty to share their expertise and love of science and research with the community. “These guys are the cream of the crop when it comes to committing to paying their research expertise and experience forward, to bringing awareness and training to the next generation of clinicians, scientists, and clinician scientists,” said Dr. Littlefield.

The program aims to encourage more kids to pursue careers in STEM fields. The effort was inspired by Dr. Zoe Draelos’s experience in a summer research program as a high school student.

“Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I was sitting where you are. And I have to say that day changed my life,” she told the newest class of Draelos Scholars. “That summer experience made me look at the world in ways I never looked at it before. And that’s what science does for you. You see things you never saw.”
—Story by Hope Voorhees, UNCG