High school interns sharpen anatomy skills at GCU's cadaver lab

Anatomy and physiology instructor Nick Capatch (center) references an area of the brain to high school seniors (from left) Sadhika Virigineni, Ronak Bhatia, Ashwika Kaza and Lexi Connor during Grand Canyon University's High School STEM Internship Program.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first in three stories about GCU's High School STEM Internship Program. Part two, which focuses on the cybersecurity internship, will be published Thursday.

Photos by Ralph Freso

Sadhika Virigineni envisions herself pursuing a career in the medical profession, and the anatomy and dissection focus of Grand Canyon University’s High School STEM Internship Program heightened her interest.

“I was able to touch these cadavers with my gloved-up hands at the age of 17,” Virigineni, a senior at Paradise Valley High School, said as she looked around the Cadaver Dissection Lab before glancing at her hands. “No qualifications necessary, other than getting into this program. I was very impressed we were able to learn about the cadavers and ask any questions. We got the whole tour of the human body.”

Students rave about the freedom they are given during the one-month internships offered this summer to high schoolers who are imbedded in GCU's labs to enhance their knowledge of science, technology, engineering and math. The program, hosted by the Honors College in partnership with K12 Educational Development and the College of Science, Engineering and Technology, also introduces them to the university's faculty and its undergraduate Research and Design Program.

In addition to anatomy and physiology, high school students are delving into artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and biomedical engineering, and they're receiving professional development sessions that cover everything from team dynamics to leadership basics.

Lexi Connor wants to enroll in a college with a strong nursing program after she graduates from Paradise Valley next spring. She wasn’t planning to apply for an internship in the anatomy and dissection program until her mother suggested she investigate and came away pleasantly surprised.

“It’s more the learning,” Connor said. “It’s not every day you would get to go inside a room and say, ‘There’s a cadaver there.’"

Anatomy/physiology instructor Nick Capatch believes these interns will walk away this summer with a huge advantage over other students because they get that hands-on experience with cadavers.

“What's absolutely crazy to me is that most universities are actually taking cadavers away altogether,” Capatch said. “So you go to most universities, you're not even going to see a cadaver. At GCU, we have the cool MAP (Mastering Anatomy Program) that allows students to actually dissect the cadavers and get that med school-level anatomy knowledge while in their undergraduate (work). That's a rare and very cool thing for undergraduate students. That's insane for high school students.”

They're doing all kinds of cool things that I definitely never did as a high schooler and probably very few high schoolers are getting to do.

GCU anatomy/physiology instructor Nick Capatch

Capatch recalled once seeing a cadaver in high school – while on a visit to GCU.

“These kids are in high school, and they've already had their hands on human brains, and they're helping with other dissections,” Capatch said. “They're doing all kinds of cool things that I definitely never did as a high schooler and probably very few high schoolers are getting to do.”

Connor admits that nearly every pair of lungs she’s encountered are “pretty disgusting,” especially those that have been there for at least a decade. But that hasn’t deterred her from completing her assignments.

“My favorite part is the actual dissecting,” Connor said. “It’s very tedious. I feel when something is more tedious, you can be prouder about the result that comes with it.”

The internship, however, is far from mundane. After learning the basics (such as how to use a scalpel properly), the interns often work in teams of two, sharing dissecting duties, performing suturing techniques, shooting photos, and identifying body parts on a computer.

“When we’re putting presentations together, there’s a lot of information, so teamwork helps,” said Ronak Bhatia, a senior at Perry High School in Gilbert, Arizona. “It makes the project go easier.”

Paradise Valley High School senior Lexi Connor (left) and Perry High School senior Ronak Bhatia catalog dissected anatomy parts on the computer during the High School STEM Internship Program.

Capatch is adamant that hands-on learning provides the best chances for students to excel, provided they’re fully engaged.

“I will take you to the right path,” Capatch said. “I will show you the right path, but I'm not going to hold your hand down that path, if that makes sense.

“That's how I teach my classes here. And then that's just how I think most things should be taught. So that's how I teach the internship, as well.”

Bhatia learned of the internship from a friend before performing his research and applying for a spot. He wasn’t disappointed.

“I learned a lot,” Bhatia said.

Ashwika Kaza, a senior at Paradise Valley, likes the balance of duties that lend itself to productive teamwork, whether it’s learning to bifurcate a brain or dissect and expose a muscle or tissue before identifying it to Capatch.

“We like working as a team,” Kaza said. “It’s a relaxed environment, and not, ‘Oh, you have to do this, this and this.’ It’s very fluid.”

Driving 40 minutes from his home in Mesa to GCU reinforced Bhatia’s goals.

“I thought it would be a perfect experience as to whether I’d be a good fit for medical school, especially whether I’d really enjoy this,” Kaza said as her internship wraps up this week. “So far I’m loving it, so I’ll continue to pursue the path to becoming a doctor.”

***

Related content:

GCU News: High schoolers with a heart for STEM intern at GCU

GCU News: Students dissect science in high-tech heaven

GCU News: GCU Anatomy students collaborate with grad school

Calendar

Calendar of Events

M Mon

T Tue

W Wed

T Thu

F Fri

S Sat

S Sun

1 event,

0 events,

3 events,

3 events,

6 events,

3 events,

1 event,

0 events,

1 event,

0 events,

0 events,

1 event,

1 event,

1 event,

0 events,

0 events,

0 events,

0 events,

0 events,

3 events,

1 event,

0 events,

0 events,

0 events,

0 events,

0 events,

0 events,

0 events,

0 events,

0 events,

0 events,

0 events,

1 event,

1 event,

0 events,

GCU Magazine

Bible Verse

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

To Read More: www.verseoftheday.com/