Two Ahwatukee Foothills sisters are gaining college laboratory experience before they even graduate from high school.

Saheba and Somya Bhatnagar are spending their summer in labs at the University of Arizona in a program called Keep Engaging Youth in Science (KEYS). They applied for and were accepted into an internship at the university, which provides a taste of the experience they can expect to have after they finish high school.

The sisters put in between six and eight hours each day and work with at least 10 others on their projects. That includes the professor who is running it, which they said is one of their favorite parts about the internship.

“I like how you get to work with professional scientist,” Somya said. “I think it’s cool you work with someone who is above you and you get a lot more out of it.”

The internship is seven weeks and they are two out of a total of 36 high school students who were accepted.

Saheba works in the lab of the College of Pharmacy. She is working on a project dealing with the effects of toxic compounds and what happens when they bind to proteins in the bone morrow — a factor that then can lead to cell damage and possibly leukemia.

Somya works in the lab of an associate professor of physiology and is studying kidney damage and diabetes. The goal there is to look at different treatments to see which can have the most positive effects.

“I think it’s really cool how we are looking at how our research would apply to real-world situations,” Saheba said.

The duo had to submit two letters of recommendation and a written statement of purpose that explained why they like science and where they hope to go in the field.

Both want to turn to a career in medicine and they draw from their experiences growing up in India and how their mother was a doctor.

“The idea is to help those people (who are less fortunate) and give treatment options that are more affordable,” Somya said.

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