Education

STEAM Academy and UK offer summer labs and research experience for Lexington high school students

Sylvie Garneau-Tsodikova, left, an associate professor in the UK College of Pharmacy, worked last week with Stephanie Bamfo, a STEAM Academy student, in a BioPharm Complex lab at UK.
Sylvie Garneau-Tsodikova, left, an associate professor in the UK College of Pharmacy, worked last week with Stephanie Bamfo, a STEAM Academy student, in a BioPharm Complex lab at UK. Herald-Leader

Stephanie Bamfo, a sophomore at STEAM Academy this fall, isn't waiting until college to get a start on her intended career as a clinical pharmacist.

Stephanie, 15, is spending the summer studying full-time in a lab at the University of Kentucky, where she hopes to work one day.

She is among the students from Fayette County Public Schools' STEAM Academy who have participated this summer in labs and undergraduate research at UK, university spokeswoman Jenny Wells said.

Stephanie said she had learned that as a clinical pharmacist who works directly with doctors and patients, "I can give back to my community."

The STEAM Academy, which stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, opened in Lexington last fall. It focuses on personalized instruction and opportunities to engage in resources at UK, Wells said.

The school functions under a partnership between Fayette County Public Schools and UK. Students take high school classes and may earn college credits in courses taught by UK faculty, and undergraduate and graduate students.

The program is housed temporarily in the old Johnson Elementary School on East Sixth Street, but Superintendent Tom Shelton has been trying to secure a site closer to UK's campus.

Stephanie said she has been working full-time with Sylvie Garneau-Tsodikova, an associate professor in the UK College of Pharmacy.

Garneau-Tsodikova, a chemist, spent time with Stephanie and other students at STEAM Academy during the 2013-14 academic year, and Stephanie contacted her about working in a UK lab.

This summer, Stephanie is interacting with graduate and post-graduate students in the lab.

In addition, she is helping develop protocols and experiments for a project called SciCats developed by Garneau-Tsodikova. The project helps younger students learn about science.

Stephanie also has been creating surveys that will determine what her fellow students at STEAM Academy study during the 2014-15 school year.

Stephanie and some of her fellow STEAM students also participated in a chemistry lab workshop at UK, Wells said. Bharath Kumar, a doctoral student in STEAM education at UK, helped set up the course.

"We had four months of chemistry classes in W.T. Young Library, and toward the end of the year, they wanted some hands-on experience, so we gave them the opportunity to be part of a lab," Kumar said in a news release. "We helped arrange the experiments, but we didn't give too much information because we want them to explore a few things on their own. We want them to get the exposure and learn how it is being in a university lab this size."

Another STEAM student, Katelyn Mofield, went to China for two weeks this summer through the Confucius Institute, a UK center for Chinese language, culture, art and business.

Katelyn, 15, who will be a sophomore in the fall, said she studied Chinese and calligraphy at Shanghai University. She also visited a school for students her age where she learned about robotics.

"It's opened my eyes to the world around me," she said. "It was so much more than study abroad. It was all around improving me as a student, as a person."

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