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Student Martha Jazmin

Science Internship Opens Student’s Eyes to a New World


When student Martha Jazmin started as an intern this past summer in the Science and Health Education Partnership High School Intern Program, she was placed in the Panning lab at Mission Bay UCSF.

For the next eight weeks, Jazmin and her peers learned a lot. Not only did they learn what stem cells are, but they also figured out what Tip-60 P400 meant, how cells are grown under controlled conditions, and about transfections, which is the process of deliberately introducing nucleic acids into cells.

She recalls a steep learning curve. “Before last summer I didn’t even know what these were. Or that such things even existed,” says Jazmin.

Now Jazmin can talk confidently about stem cells. “They have two important properties. Self-renewal, which is when a cell divides both halves may behave and look exactly alike, and pluripotency, which means the ability for a cell to become any cell in the body.”

As Jazmin worked in a lab related to how these properties are maintained in cells, each week she shared what she learned and understood about her project with her peers. She developed a new vocabulary, and her understanding reached the point where she could give 10-minute talks on the subject.

But Jazmin says she learned about more than the technicalities of her project through her relationship with her mentor.

“We discussed career ideas and colleges, talked about working independently, feeling comfortable around adults, communication and social skills.”

Each summer, the UCSF High School Intern program places 20 SFUSD high school students in laboratories to conduct biomedical research with the guidance of a UCSF mentor. The majority of interns do not have family members with college degrees, and many are immigrants or the children of immigrants. SFUSD high school science teachers work with UCSF to identify students who will benefit the most from the program, rather than using test scores or grades as qualifiers.

Students complete 180 hours during the program, of which 140 are spent in their labs. The remaining 40 hours are devoted to other components, including college guidance, college writing workshops and weekly meetings with all interns.

“This internship really opened my eyes to the science field. It really helped me lean toward a bigger goal, and I’m closer to deciding what I would like to study in college,” says Jazmin.

“Before this project I thought science, and anything related to the science field, to be quite boring. But I now realize that these careers help society, science, and medicine to advance with by asking just one small question and having one big goal.”

Find more information on the Science and Health Education Partnership High School Intern Program.