Ismerai Barragan’s interest in STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math, started as a simple curiosity about her dad’s garden.

“Ever since I was little, my dad had a little garden and I was always so curious how plants grew in the soil and it was very fun to me,” said The Preuss School at University of California San Diego student.

Hands-on STEM Learning

That interest led to Barragan successfully applying for the Heithoff-Brody High School Summer Scholars internship program with the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. She was one of 12 students selected from 250-plus applicants to participate in a summer internship at the world-renowned nonprofit research organization.

As part of the internship, high school students participate in a one-week research skills boot camp. They then spend the following seven weeks in the lab attending lab meetings and learning how to formulate and test hypotheses, prepare experiments and draw conclusions. Their internships end with a capstone project and presentation for their mentors and peers.

Founded more than 40 years ago, the Heithoff-Brody High School Summer Scholars program at the Salk Institute fulfills Jonas Salk’s vision of introducing high school students to laboratory life and the possibility of a career in science.

“STEM opportunities are so lucrative for students and help us move forward the next generation. Jonas Salk believed it is our responsibility to be good ancestors and that is what our program is: To train the next generation of students to be great scientists,” said Monika Wert-Parkinson, Director of Public Programs for Salk Institute.

The program is open to students 16 years and older who reside and attend school in San Diego County. It operates in collaboration with the Biocom Institute Life Science Young Leaders High School Internship program and is funded by the San Diego Foundation through its Science & Technology Program.

The 2023 SDF Science & Technology Program application period will open this fall for nonprofits offering educational STEM opportunities to underrepresented young adults.

About the SDF Science & Technology Program

The SDF Science & Technology Program seeks to help build the talent pipeline from existing students in San Diego County.

Working with local universities, colleges, nonprofits and employers, the Science & Technology Program seeks to expose more high school and college students to careers in STEM, with a focus on equity and inclusion of women and Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities.

Program supports include case management, academic coaching, mentorship, stipend-supported internships and research fellowships.

Through this program, $9.5 million in grants have been awarded to 33 nonprofit partners to support 937 San Diegans from communities traditionally underrepresented in STEM disciplines.

Learn more about the Science & Technology Program.