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TSRI’s Science Saturday Program Inspires Students to Explore STEM Careers



TSRI’s Science Saturday Program Inspires Students to Explore STEM Careers

By Madeline McCurry-Schmidt

For the last three years, the Office of Graduate Studies at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) has brought hundreds of high school students to campus for the Science Saturday program. The unique program, held several times a year, features hands-on lab demonstrations, lectures and Q&A sessions with leading biomedical researchers.

According to teachers who have brought students to Science Saturday over the years, the program offers lessons that can’t be taught in the classroom alone.

Amy Arita, an instructor at Lighthouse Christian Academy, said Science Saturday helps her students picture themselves working in a real lab. “Through the program, they see that research can change lives for the better,” said Arita. “Hopefully, they’ll be inspired to work hard.”

“The schools have this program as an anchor,” added volunteer Shirley King. “This helps them see a real career path in STEM fields for their students.”

Teachers aren’t the only ones inspired by Science Saturday. Many of the students who have visited the TSRI campus have expressed interest in applying for TSRI summer internships, such as the High School Internship Program, a part of the San Diego Workforce Partnership’s Life Sciences Summer Institute.

The latest Science Saturday event, held January 28, kicked off with a lecture titled “The Nuts and Bolts of Building Molecules,” by TSRI alumnus and Assistant Professor Keary Engle. Engle and his lab members are working to develop more efficient chemical reactions and tools for drug discovery.

Many of the students in the audience that day hadn’t taken chemistry in school yet, but they didn’t hold back in asking insightful questions during the Q&A session with Engle that followed.

“What made you want to pursue a career in this field?” asked one student.

Engle explained that he was partly inspired to study chemistry after meeting professional chemists during college—the same kind of experience made possible with Science Saturday.

Engle offered further advice for aspiring scientists in the audience: “If you want to pursue a career in science, there’s a place for you,” he said. “Chemistry allows you to be both an inventor and an explorer—and a philosopher.”

Science Saturday is funded by the Farrell Family Foundation and overseen by TSRI’s Office of Graduate Studies, with the support of Shirley King, TSRI Professor Art Olson, TSRI Professor Emeritus Charles Cochrane and Whitney Wagner of the Office of Graduate Studies.

For more information on the Science Saturday program, visit

To view videos of past Science Saturday lectures, visit

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San Diego high school students gather for the first Science Saturday lecture of 2017.

TSRI alumnus and Assistant Professor Keary Engle shares his research in chemistry with Science Saturday students.

TSRI graduate students attend the event to provide mentorship and lab tours for students. (Photos by Madeline McCurry-Schmidt.)