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Stem-to-Store Academy: The Chemistry of Medicine

The University of Oklahoma’s Department of Chemistry Biochemistry in collaboration with Pre-collegiate Programs collaborate to offer STEM-to-Store: The Chemistry of Medicine. The STEM-to-Store Academy is a one-week in-residence program for students entering their junior and senior years of high school in Oklahoma. During the day, the curriculum combines lecture with laboratory exercises. In the evenings, the students to have free time while also providing fun learning activities.

Each year, 30 students are selected from a large pool of applications submitted by gifted and talented students across Oklahoma. The Academy is free of charge to those chosen to attend.

The STEM-to-Store Academy, funded through a grant from the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, is designed to improve the preparation of students interested in medicine, pharmacy, science and public policy. The student participants study the medically relevant ingredients of Echinacea herbal medicine. Echinacea is a mixture of chemical compounds extracted from coneflower plants and formulated into commercial products. Students embark on a scientific journey to extract Echinacea from roots, stalks, stems, leaves of the eastern coneflower plant.

Incorporating study in Chemistry, Botany, Mathematics, Medicine, History, Sociology and Native American Studies, the academy introduced students to the chemistry and history of natural products and herbal medicines. By studying natural products and herbal medicines, students utilized both traditional scientific methods, as well as social science methodology to explore this important topic.

The Academy focuses on the process of collecting extracts rather than testing the medical efficiency of the compounds. All activities take place in the Stephenson Life Sciences Research Center on the OU campus. Students work in small groups to study mature eastern coneflower plants. During this process, the students interface with faculty, professional staff, undergraduate and graduate level students.

Students present their findings via a poster session in the Stephenson Life Sciences Research Center. Faculty and Students in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry as well as the families of the students were invited to attend. Students are allowed to take their posters home and encouraged to share them with their classmates and teachers.

Introducing high school students to different career paths prior to choosing a college major is a driving force behind this type of academy. A large number of professions rely upon Math and Science skills. When a student excels in Science and Math, they are steered towards Engineering and Medicine, no other options are offered to them. Chemistry, Physics, Zoology and Botany provide training for hundreds of private and public sector careers aside from Medical School preparation. Introducing students to research based science at an early stage of their academic careers encourages them to become the next generation of research scientists, teachers, pharmacists, crime scene technicians and patent lawyers. Research and development are essential to a thriving economy as well as the health and well-being of its citizens.

Students are given the opportunity to live a week as a college student, showcasing OU’s commitment to their success in STEM education. This program is funded by a grant from the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. 

Student Feedback On Academy

Students were asked to write thank you notes during the academy and were encouraged to write comments on their final evaluations. Below are a few comments from the academy students:

“Without your generous financial contribution, the camp would have required a tuition fee. Had this held true, I would not have been able to attend. By funding this camp and others like it, you inspire today’s youth to go above and beyond to accomplish their goals. You help students to fulfill their dreams. Perhaps it will be one of us (those who attended this camp) who discover the cure for cancer after being spurred by this very camp to go into the field of science. I hope you continue to inspire the scientists of tomorrow.”

“I was very thankful for learning about applying to universities and tips about thriving in a university.”

“I had the best experience and learned so much. It really made me think about my future and showing me it is possible to accomplish so many things in my life.”

“This week has been an incredible experience. As I am only a senior in high school, it is often very difficult for me to get involved in undergraduate-level research. I was so excited to be able to create a professional scientific poster and I am looking forward to taking it to future science fairs.”

“I had a wonderful time in which I enriched my knowledge of chemistry and the medical field in general. The experience helped me to prepare for the college application process this fall and inspired me to consider taking research as an undergraduate. There are no words that can fully express my gratitude.” 

For specific questions regarding the application process, housing or other administrative issues please contact

For specific questions regarding the curriculum please contact Dr. Charles Rice at