Apply Now to Become a UK STAR

By Gail Hairston

(March 4, 2015) — You, too, can be a STAR, a star student, star leader, star innovator.

The deadline is March 9 for undergraduates to apply to STAR, the University of Kentucky’s Summer Training in Alcohol Research program. Students can study alcohol‐related disorders like alcoholism, fetal alcohol syndrome, cancer, family relationship dynamics, medications development and risk factors.

An innovative grant from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) funds the UK program that both advances research of alcohol abuse, but also trains tomorrow's problem solvers.

UK launched STAR last year thanks to the $350,000 NIAAA grant that pays the chosen students a $4,000 stipend during a 10-week summer internship in one of 11 UK psychology, physiology and pharmacology labs, working on research projects that focus on alcohol and its effects.

The program reaches out specifically to a diverse population of Kentuckians for this unique educational opportunity. The chosen students will work in some of UK’s best laboratory environments to unlock the answers to serious problems, while engaging with top-notch faculty mentors.

“Due to the breadth and depth of our faculty’s research, a broad range of opportunities exist for our undergraduate students," said UK President Eli Capilouto when the program was launched last year. "They will be engaged across the spectrum of creative inquiry, from cell biology to alcohol’s impact on interpersonal behavior. We hope this talented, diverse group of undergraduates will deepen their interest in STEM fields and research, particularly the biomedical and behavioral sciences.” 

“During the first year of the UK STAR training program, we received 126 applications from every corner of the continental U.S.A. and from Puerto Rico," said co-PI University Research Professor Mark A. Prendergast. "We were able to recruit a diverse group of 11 highly ambitious and productive undergraduate students who had already demonstrated a commitment to careers in the STEM fields,” said Prendergast, a UK psychology professor who supervises the Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center, one of the STAR labs.

Last year’s trainees received 10 weeks of intensive laboratory-based research on many aspects of alcohol and drug abuse. In addition, they received training in the responsible conduct of research, including ethics in data analysis and the care of research subjects.  The culminating experience of the training was a daylong UK STAR alcohol research symposium on campus, at which, each trainee gave a scientific presentation to members of the UK substance abuse research community.

“Our post-training survey research clearly indicated that the UK STAR experience solidified the commitment of these exceptional trainees to the pursuit of careers in the STEM fields, including in academic programs here at UK,” said Prendergast.  “We are thrilled to be able to offer this opportunity to many more talented students.”

For more information about UK STAR and to submit an application, visit  http://www.as.uky.edu/uk-star.

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