Science draws high school students to campus

Elizabeth Lefrere, left, and Demi Robinette, both students at De La Salle High School, examine a human brain as part of the Tulane Science Scholars Program. Both girls hope to attend Tulane and major in psychology. (Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)

Elizabeth Lefrere, a senior at De La Salle High School in uptown New Orleans, would like nothing more than to major in psychology at Tulane University. So when she learned about the 2014 Science Scholars Program at Tulane, she knew she wanted to spend at least part of her summer on the uptown campus — and earn three hours of college credit in the process.

She applied to and was accepted into the “Exploring Psychology” session, and just as the flyer promised, she had the opportunity to examine a real human brain.

“I"ve never had an experience like this,” Lefrere said. “I had to handle a human brain. I"m just surprised I didn"t freak out.”

Exploring Psychology is one of three sessions being offered this summer to high school students with exceptional talent in the sciences and mathematics. The other sessions are Material Sciences and Engineering and Basic Neuroscience with Laboratory.

For the first time, the program includes a residential component for out-of-town students.

“We did this as a way to attract students from out of state who are thinking about Tulane as a possible college choice,” said Michelle Sanchez, director for the K-12 STEM Education Outreach Program in the School of Science and Engineering. “We have about 10 students living on campus throughout the summer.”

They include Logan Smith, a rising sophomore from Orange Beach, Ala. Smith is an aspiring surgeon who hopes to attend Tulane to major in biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology. That he has been able to experience campus, even for a brief time, “has been a cool and exciting opportunity,” he said.

To be accepted, students had to submit a transcript, teacher recommendations and an essay.

“Some are doing it for college credit; others are interested in pre-medicine,” said psychology professor Carrie Wyland, instructor of the psychology session. “Most are doing it for the knowledge.”

“Some are doing it for college credit; others are interested in pre-medicine. Most are doing it for the knowledge.”