Students Taking Advantage of Research (STAR) Lab is a high school outreach collaboration at the University of Arizona between the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and Southern Arizona Research Science and Engineering Foundation (SARSEF). Applications for STAR Lab are open for the 2022-2023 school year.

Although the STAR Lab is housed in Molecular and Cellular Biology, the outreach program supports students and mentors in all fields of science. 

Sign Up to Be a Research Mentor

Are you a post doc, graduate student or research scientist interested in outreach? Are you excited about research? Would you like to be part of bringing up the next generation of young scientists and engineers?  Sign up to be a STAR Lab Research Mentor.

Mentors will meet with student mentees for an hour once a week minimally. Some students will come to the campus STAR Lab to do their research, others will work remotely, so the weekly check-ins may be in person or via Zoom. In addition to mentoring the research process, mentors will review student written work: Research proposal, Research paper, poster or slide deck research presentation. Students will be coached and supported in the writing process by STAR Lab Facilitators. The program will run from the end of September through the end of February. 

Sign Up to Be a Lab Facilitator

Are you a UArizona Junior or Senior with research experience? Do you have leadership skills and enjoy working with high school students on research? Sign up to be a STAR Lab Facilitator! STAR Lab Facilitators will receive UArizona credit for Independent Studies. You will meet once a week with an instructor (STAR Lab Virtual Coordinator) and will also host a weekly virtual lab meeting with a small cohort of our STAR Lab students. Share your enthusiasm for science and support our young scientists in science communication! Sign up here!

STAR Lab Student Application Process

Students wishing to participate in the STAR Lab Program, must be 16 years of age by September 19, 2022. We request that you have a nominating teacher who will commit to supporting you in your commitment to the program. If you are interested in participating in the 2022/2023 STAR Lab, please complete the STAR Lab application. When you fill out the application, you will need the name and contact information for two references, your nominating teacher and another teacher or professional with whom you have worked. Please send an unofficial transcript to  Additionally, please submit a 300 word essay addressing one of the prompts listed below. Please save your essay as a pdf titled Writingprompt_lastnamefirstname and email the pdf to

It is the Year 2050. What science or engineering project are you working on? 

  • Describe the need or problem that motivated you project.
  • Explain how the project was conducted and how it addressed the problem.

What outcome did your project have and how did you know if it was successful? Think about a significant experience that challenged you (academically or personally). In 300 words or fewer, tell us: 

  • What was the challenge?  
  • What did you do to overcome the challenge? 
  • What did you learn about yourself as you faced the challenge? 

Science is all around us, all the time!  Think about the science experience that made you realize you were a scientist at heart. 

  • What was the experience? 
  • How did you respond at the moment?  
  • Why do you think the experience had such a major impact on you?

A slight twist on the super power question: Comic book hero Peter Parker became Spiderman after being bitten by a radioactive spider. 

  • What radioactive animal would you want to get bitten by? Why? 
  • What new abilities would you gain, and what would you use them for?

Applications are open and will close at midnight on September 6, 2022.  All applicants will be contacted on September 13th with updates. The program will begin on September 19th.

STAR Lab History in the Making

The STAR Lab opened in November 2019 on the first floor of Biosciences West and supports high school student research and engineering projects.  In our inaugural year, twenty area high school students worked with 14 different University of Arizona mentors to complete research projects, which were presented at the SARSEF Science Fair (March 2020).

We were very excited to grow and expand our program in the second year; due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all STAR Lab research partnerships were online for 2020-2021.  The virtual STAR Lab supported 31 students who worked with 25 mentors from across the UA campus and Pima County.  Students presented their research projects at SARSEF, 27 of them won awards and four were selected as ISEF Finalists. Super congrats to these students!

To view past STAR Lab Projects, go to,  Under Arizona Virtual Science Fairs, select STAR Lab from the “Choose a school…” drop down menu and use the password STARLab to view the 38 projects completed through our 2021-2022 virtual and in-person program. 

Watch this video about six students from Pueblo High School who were accepted in the S.T.A.R. Lab research program this year and will present their research projects at SARSEF in March 2021!

Project Information

This year, STAR Lab projects will be available either in person*, at University of Arizona, or virtually.  In person students will meet with their research mentors 1-2 times per week and will be able to utilize the STAR Lab materials and equipment for their projects. The STAR Lab space is equipped with mostly molecular biology equipment, vertical and horizontal electrophoresis, gel imagining, thermal cyclers, centrifuges, nanodrop biosafety cabinet as well as access communal equipment in the building.

Virtual student projects may involve big data, bioinformatics, biomedical research data, climate, GPS/ArcView, virtual computing, programming, or other questions that can be completed virtually. Students may also choose to work with equipment in their classrooms and meet with their mentors virtually.

Students (individually or in small teams) will be paired with research mentors. The research mentor will be responsible for ensuring the scientific integrity of the research. Once the projects are established and up and running, research mentors and mentees will meet a minimum of once a week for an hour to discuss and review progress.

Additional support for the high school researchers will come from undergraduate STAR Lab Facilitators. STAR Lab Facilitators will coach a small cadre of high school researchers on science communication, both reading and writing about research.  The STAR Lab Facilitators will help troubleshoot challenges and help maintain the community of science and learning.  Both in person and virtual students will meet once a week with their STAR Lab Facilitator group and will complete weekly assignments.

* We request that in-person students be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by September 19, 2022.



Click on the photo belows to hear Dr. Joyce Schroeder, MCB Department Head, share information about STAR lab!


Hear students talk about their STAR Lab projects!


STAR Lab students shine brightly at the 2022 SARSEF Regional Science and Engineering Fair!

In 2022, STAR Lab students presented 36 projects at SARSEF Regional Science and Engineering Fair and 32 projects won awards!  Five projects were selected with the distinction of presenting at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair in Atlanta, Georgia in May 2022! Congratulations to our STAR Lab ISEF Finalists!

See the list of ISEF Finalists and their ISEF awards below.

To view all the STAR Lab Projects, go to, Under Arizona Virtual Science Fairs, select S.T.A.R. Labs from the “Choose a school...” drop down menu and use the password STARLab to view the projects.

Lily Wood, Nathaniel van der Leeuw
Project Title: Contemporary and Projected Climate Changes across the Southwestern United States Relative to the Last 24,000 Years
STAR Lab Mentor: Matt Osman, PhD, UA climate Systems Center
Winners of UA $10,000 Scholarships at ISEF

Saptarshi Mallick
Project Title: Hedgehog Signaling Mediates the Dysregulation of Adrenocorticotropin Hormone Secretion and Somatostatin Receptor Expression in Cushing’s Disease
STAR Lab Mentor: Yana Zavro PhD, University of Arizona Cancer Center
Winner of $10,000 First Prize from National Anti-vivisection Society ISEF 2022

Alexander Nelson
Project Title: Analysis of pollen-pistil interactions to model reproductive thermotolerance in tomato
STAR Lab Mentor: Ravi Palanivelu PhD, UA School of Plant Sciences
3rd Place Winner in Plant Sciences ISEF 2022

Karah Mayer
Project Title: Rare Immune Cells Significantly Associated with Severe COVID-19 Cases
STAR Lab Mentor: Xiaoxiao Sun PhD, UA Epidemiology and Biostatistics
ISEF Finalist

Yaritza Durazo
Project Title: Exploration of Chaotic Orbits Using the Lyapunov Exponent in the Restricted Three-Body Problem
STAR Lab Mentor: Danny Castro, PhD Candidate, UA Department of Physics
ISEF Finalist

Isabelle Lopez
Project Title: Horizontal Transmission of the Obligate Symbiont Burkholderia in the Leaf-Footed Bug, Leptoglossus zonatus (Hemiptera: Coreidae)
STAR Lab Mentor: Edwin Umanzor, PhD Candidate, University of Arizona Department of Entomolgy and Insect Science

Jessamine Tade
Project Title: Socially Exposed: Investigating the relationship between the social behaviors of mammals and their viral exposure.
STAR Lab Mentor: Elise Lauterbur PhD, NSF Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Adrian Miller, Liam Superville
Project Title: Cockroaches on Caffeine: Behavioral analysis of the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach (Gromphadorhina portentosa) after a long term Caffeine Supplemented Diet.
STAR Lab Mentor: Ulises Ricoy PhD/John Earle Moore; Department of Neuroscience

Amritjot Singh
Project Title: Demographics of Vaccination Status
STAR Lab Mentor: Derek Reichel, PhD, Roche Tissue Diagnostics

Karen Nguyen, Kristin Jung
Project Title: Bilingualism's Effect on Memory
STAR Lab Mentor: Jennifer Feng, Pre-doctoral Fellow, Rutgers University, Department of Psychology 

Patricio Madera Tejeda
Project Title: Music preferences during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic: How countries reacted to a changing world
STAR Lab Mentor: Adriana Picoral PhD, UA School of Information

Daveena Biswas
Project Title: Which treatments are most effective at improving cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients 50 years and older?
STAR Lab Mentor: Jennifer Feng, Pre-doctoral Fellow, Rutgers University, Department of Psychology 

Jade Kuan, Nathan Kuo
Project Title: Investigation of Retinal Energetics with Novel OPLS Force Fields Applied to a Full-Retinylidene System
STAR Lab Mentor: Andy Erly PhD Candidate, University of Arizona Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry

Ananya Munjal
Project Title: Comparing Different Machine Learning Approaches to Assess Frailty Among Geriatric Patients Using Upper-Extremity Function
STAR Lab Mentor: Mehar Asghari, PhD Candidate, University of Arizona Biomedical Engineering

Shivam Kedia
Project Title: Factors that affect Cancer Metastasis
STAR Lab Mentor: Sam Sugarman, PhD Candidate University of Arizona Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Quinn Nemeth
Project Title: Wastewater-Based Epidemiological Tracking of SARS-CoV-2: Determining Unreported Cases and Clinical Data Lag Time
STAR Lab Mentor: Christian Roessler PhD, Roche Tissue Diagnostics

Andrea Romero
Project Title: Investigating the Effects of Native Sonoran Desert Plants on Enhancing the Effects of Different Antibiotics Against E. coli
STAR Lab Mentor: Nyles Bauer, UA Microbiology

Joann Valenzuela, Victor Vigbedorh
Project Title: Effects of stimulated drug addiction on the neural spike activity of Gromphadorhina portentosa and their applications in the identification and treatment of addictions
STAR Lab Mentor: Ulises Ricoy/ John Moore UA Neuroscience

Zachary Keyes
Project Title: Hypo- and hyperglycemia Stimulate PKC-δ+ Neurons In The Cell
STAR Lab Mentor: Matthew Schmitt  PhD Candidate, UA Department of Neuroscience

Zander Dickey
Project Title: The Role of Hypoxia and Tyrosine Kinases on Breast Cancer Cell Migration
STAR Lab Mentor: Sam Sugarman,  PhD, UA Dept. of  Chemistry

Suhani Patel
Project Title: Protein Labelling Effects on the Optical Properties of Fluorescent Dyes
STAR Lab Mentor: Derek Reichel, PhD, Roche Tissue Diagnostics

Elizabeth Haloftis, Phuong Bui
Project Title: The Effect of Landscape Gravel on Ambient Air, Surface, and Soil Temperature
STAR Lab Mentor: Jim Malusa, Research scientist, UA School of Renewable Natural Resources

Jeronimo Barela
Project Title: Effects of Sceloporus virgatus (Striped Plateau Lizard) Cloacal Bacteria on Fungal Growth
STAR Lab Mentor: Stacey Weiss, PhD, Biology, University of Pudget Sound

Ana Navarro 
Project Title: Antimicrobial Potentials of Ayurvedic Products Extracts and Streptomycin Against Necrosis Causing Bacteria in Saguaro Cactus
STAR Lab Mentor: Nyles Bauer, UA Microbiology


STAR Lab in the news!

Green Valley News

If you are a high school student interested in participating, or are a University of Arizona student interested in mentoring, contact Dr. Wilch or Dr. Stover.

Dr. Daryn Stover  (520) 626-4664

Dr. Margaret Wilch  (520) 626-4664