The University of Kentucky STEM Through Authentic Research and Training (START) program recently closed out its summer session, with START Apprentices gaining tremendous insight into research careers and higher education.

The program began with a week of apprentices developing a growth mindset, harnessing their strengths, training in mentorship, and learning about campus resources for student success. It served as a platform that promoted personal growth, ignited a sense of belonging on campus, and created lasting friendships among the participants.

START Apprentices served as near-peer mentors to elementary and middle school students through the See Blue See STEM Camp at the UK College of Education. Next, they worked with faculty, staff, and student mentors across UK to engage in active STEM research. Lastly, they joined a Higher Orbits “Go for Launch!” event, where they met astronaut Tony Antonelli and worked in teams to propose experiments for microgravity research on the International Space Station. Two group projects were selected to advance to a national competition – with the winning national project selected for flight.

With campus and community partners, and families in attendance, participants were provided white coats by previous START Apprentices (now entering UK college students), welcoming them to the field of science.

“The exceptional guidance and support from our START team, partners, and faculty laboratories played a significant role in shaping this experience,” said Luke Bradley, PhD, acting chair and professor of neuroscience in the UK College of Medicine. “Their dedication, expertise, and commitment to the START Apprentices minimized barriers and created an environment where the apprentices could thrive and learn, not only in STEM but also emotionally and socially.”

The UK START program is a collaboration between University of Kentucky colleges, including the College of Medicine, and local organizations to enhance the pipeline into college for first-generation and traditionally underrepresented students. The program focuses on introducing students early to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers by integrating academic, social, and professional experiences.

View the photos below from the program’s white coat ceremony. For more information about the program, click here.

This project was made possible by a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA), Grant Number R25 GM132961, from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) National Institutes of Health (NIH). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the NIGMS or NIH.