Pre-college Summer Programs Introduce Students and Teachers to University Health Research

Achievement date: 

Eight high school students and 13 middle and high school teachers participated in university-level biomedical engineering and health technology research as part of pre-college programs supported by the NSF-funded Precise Advanced Technologies and Health Systems for Underserved Populations (PATHS-UP) Engineering Research Center (ERC). The Center is headquartered at Texas A&M University (TAMU), with partners from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), Rice University, and Florida International University (FIU). These Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) and Young Scholar (YS) programs were conducted in 2018, PATHS-UP’s first year of operation, to stimulate interest in and preparation for STEM careers, especially engineering.


PATHS-UP’s purpose is to change the paradigm for the health of underserved populations by developing technologies and systems at the point of care, as well as engaging people to lead engineering research toward this goal the future. Each PATHS-UP partner conducts RET and YS programs, giving hands-on experience for middle and high school teachers and high school students age 16 or older on their university campuses. RET is a six-week summer program where participants observe and actively work in research while developing inquiry-based lesson plans that apply PATHS-UP research, using media and other strategies to bring the laboratory experience to their students. The educators also work with a team to develop new PATHS-UP modules that are implemented at the Center’s educational outreach programs as well as form the basis for workshops at professional development (PD) conferences for teachers, such as the annual meeting of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) or the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). The YS summer high school research internships, also lasting for 6 weeks during the summer break, provide an opportunity for students to participate in hands-on, hypothesis-driven, project-based research in the laboratories of their chosen mentors. At FIU and TAMU, the YS and their participating teachers are placed in the same labs, enhancing communication and extending learning after they return to their home schools.


RET participants work with vertically integrated research teams, which include high school, undergraduate, and graduate students in the PATHS-UP labs. These interactions with students, trainees, and faculty allow the teachers to translate their experiences into new, research-inspired, PATHS-UP lesson and activity plans that reflect “real world” endeavors.

YS programs range from a 1-week “camp” focused on “Computing for Health” at Rice University, to 6-week, hands-on research experiences in PATHS-UP labs at Texas A&M and FIU and an innovative “Urban Fellowship” at UCLA, which includes training to allow participating students to become effective health advocates for their underserved communities. During the course of their internships, the students:

  • Learn how to conduct a literature search and read scientific papers;
  • Perform basic research on an ongoing project;
  • Participate in weekly group meetings and discussions;
  • Attend seminars/talks and career development workshops on campus;
  • Learn about the evolution of technology as it relates to their research and field of interest; and
  • Participate in a scientific symposium and give a short talk about their research at the conclusion of the program.