LOGAN -- Karen Gossner spent most of last week decked out in a lab coat, goggles and rubber gloves.
It was another step in the Weber High School graduate's love affair with science. Gossner, now 18, was only 8 when she first fell for chemistry.
"I just always loved it," said Gossner, who heads to Weber State in the fall. "I always had a good time with experiments we did in class, and I liked Science Fair."
So when Gossner saw a newspaper story about a Utah State University summer internship that would allow participants to help with chemistry and biochemistry research, she couldn't wait to apply. Gossner was one of two WHS students accepted to the prestigious program, which ran last week on the USU campus.
"It was a really good experience," the Pleasant View resident said. "I was thinking of a teaching major, but now I want to take more chemistry classes, and if I can, I'd like to get a master's in biochemistry from Utah State."
Kyleen Grissom, 17, North Ogden, also enjoyed her work in a research lab.
"It was great experience," said Grissom, a WHS senior in the fall. "It made me feel like doing research in college is important."
Gossner and Grissom were two of 12 students accepted from 26 applicants, who were judged on the merit of their science and chemistry backgrounds and course work. Most of the students were from Cache County, but two made the trip from Utah and Millard counties.
Students pay a nominal $50 for room, board, equipment and classes, and they get a taste of what their future in the sciences could be.
"They are still at an age where they are trying to sort out their career aspirations, and see how they feel about science," said Alvan Hengge, head of USU's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and internship coordinator.
"Our main goal is to give them a chance to see what real scientific discovery is. In a typical science course at the high school level, students do experiments that are pretty canned, and they already know the answers they are supposed to get. We want to give them a little taste of what real research is like."
Hengge said in an average internship day, students would begin with a lecture and demonstration activity as a group, perhaps focusing on biofuels, isolating their own DNA or learning about calcium oxalate, which causes kidney stones.
Next, they would split up with faculty or graduate student mentors to work on experiments related to students' areas of interest.
The teens also practiced critical thinking, scientific method and lab safety.
"The goal is to give them a sense of the excitement of discovering something new," Hengge said. "We really don't care how much chemistry or biochemistry our interns remember six months later. What is more important to us is that they remember the sense of how fun doing science is."
The summer internship program is now in its fifth year. The number of applicants accepted varies, depending on the availability of faculty members.
"It does involve people sacrificing their time to show interns what they are doing, to explain it to the high school students who don't have training to contribute to move things forward," Hengge said. "Our faculty members and research assistants are here to inspire prospective students to consider being a chemist or biochemist."
Hengge was a high school chemistry teacher for seven years before returning to school to get his doctorate and going into research. Hengge said he enjoys working with highly motivated students.
"The most enjoyable part of the week for me is the last day, when students give short PowerPoint presentations to the whole group, and they invite their parents to come," Hengge said.
"They give the background of the project, what they did and talk about what their conclusions were. It's amazing how much they can absorb in a week. And to see them show off to each other and their parents, that's a really satisfying part of the whole experience."
Patty Grissom said her daughter loved the internship.
"There aren't a lot of opportunities to do research for someone her age," Patty Grissom said. "I think it has made her much more curious to start college, and that much more passionate about doing research in a lab. She is more excited to start college and prepare for a career in the science fields."
Hengge said the dates for next summer's internship have not been determined, but in the early spring, details will be made available through area high school chemistry teachers and through the USU Chemistry Department website, www.chem.usu.edu.