During the summer four Desert Vista High School students were enrolled in the highly competitive science internship at the University of Arizona, known as the Keys (Keep Engaging Youth in Science).

Monica Szeto, a senior at DV, has been participating in the internship throughout the summer along with three other DV students, Sneha Raola, Julia Yoo and Justin Lopez. 

The program is a seven-week internship, which began on June 3 and ended July 19, where the 48 top Arizona students used the UA science facilities to learn more about the field they’re interested in.

The Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center (SWEHSC) and the BIO105 Institute co-directs the KEYS internship program, with this being the fifth summer the program has been offered to students interested in the field of science.

One of the interns experiences included a week-long training and research program, where they were mentored by UA investigators and graduate students.

At the end of the internship, participants presented their work in a presentation to their peers and the public this past Friday.

Interns were also involved in attending weekly seminars to better their experience by practicing science communication skills.

Out-of-town interns were given a dorm room to stay in, while interns who live in Tucson were able to commute to the campus. 

Each of the DV interns had their separate fields they worked on throughout the summer.


Intern’s summer responsibilities

Szeto’s projects involved studying the G-quadruplex structure of DNA, which has the potential to be used to increase cell death in cancer, while Raola has been working in the lab of Frans Tax with her projects involving the study of DNA of various types of pomegranate and fig plants in Tucson and Sonora, Mexico.

Lopez has been working on projects learning about the gene PDE4DIP to increase understanding of how defective genes make people more susceptible to asthma, and Yoo’s project involved studying clusters of abnormal glands that are thought to be precursors to colorectal cancer.

During her time in the KEYS program, Szeto was involved with different experiments and the process of collecting research and data.

She’s currently working on the final presentation that will display her team’s research finds.

“The poster presentation is created to explain the general topics of the research and data that we’ve collected for our project,” Szeto said. “It gives the people who see our research finds an idea of what we’ve been doing.”

She first heard about the internship when her biology tech teacher spoke about it, and her sister participated in the program a year ago. 

“At first I wasn’t interested in getting into the internship, but my sister told me about it and she really enjoyed it,” Szeto said. “The experience during the internship is allowing us to be more active with the research process, rather than being on the sidelines.”

She said she enjoyed her time at the internship because it gave her the opportunity to get her foot in the door to the science field.

Szeto is also keeping her options open for what she wants to pursue in the near future. 

Being part of the internship has also given Szeto the opportunity to learn about work skills and how to handle working with different individuals. She plans on returning to the campus to continue with different research projects.

“I’ve met so many different people while being in this internship and I’ll treasure this experience,” Szeto said. 

Raola also enjoyed that during the internship she felt as if she was being treated as a member of a working team to get the work completed.

She is currently undecided on where she wants to attend college, but can see herself working in a lab. 

“This internship gave me insight on working in a lab and taught me more about DNA sequences.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or dochoa@ahwatukee.com.

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