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.