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RFU Celebrates "Science Saturday" Graduates

Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science recently celebrated completion by 32 local high school students of the university's inaugural Pre-professional Research Laboratory Assistant Course.

Dubbed "Science Saturdays," the course pairs the local students with RFU graduate students who guide them in core lab techniques, including preparation of tissue cultures and use of a centrifuge, and in learning the scientific method and other key concepts, like the physiology of pH.

During a closing ceremony held at the university's North Chicago campus on Jan. 25, students from communities including Waukegan, Round Lake, Mundelein, Gurnee and North Chicago were awarded certificates of completion.

"You students hold the key to a healthier future," President and CEO Dr. Wendy Rheault told awardees. "You can help build trust in medicine and science and connect people to the care they need."

The university, which offers more than 30 graduate biomedical and health professions programs, sponsors numerous pathways for prospective students underrepresented in healthcare fields. Those include INSPIRE, a nationally-recognized mentorship and applied summer research program, and the Pre-matriculation Program, or PMP, which includes coursework and academic support to enhance application for admission into medical school and other highly-competitive academic health sciences programs.

Dr. Hector Rasgado-Flores, Chicago Medical School director of diversity, outreach and success, said a key to the success of the laboratory assistant course is family involvement.

"We are very proud that this program significantly raised students' interest in science, and the involvement of parents in the scientific education of their children," said Dr. Rasgado-Flores, also a professor of physiology/biophysics.

RFU first opened its research labs to area youth, many who are members of underserved Latino communities, more than 20 years ago in an effort to improve access to higher education and the health professions.

"We're seeing the positive impacts on local students and their families, but also on our own graduate students, scientists and staff who get to work alongside these inquisitive young people," Dr. Rheault said.

Students can use their certificates to apply for admission to college and employment opportunities. Lake County is home to 33,000 bioscience jobs and 122 companies. RFU's new Innovation and Research Park will generate an estimated 500 direct and related jobs, according to Lake County Partners, a non-profit economic development group.

"We want to spark in you an interest and joy for the lifelong pursuit and study of science," RFU Provost Dr. Nancy L. Parsley told students. "We want to guide you along the path to higher learning and rewarding careers in biomedical research and health careers."

Sponsored in partnership with local schools and the Lake Bluff-based Gorter Family Foundation, Science Saturdays are offered in two, eight-week sessions, summer and fall.

Posted February 7, 2020
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