ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Gregory Arias, Justin Devore and Quinton Smith skipped summer vacation this year to be the first ever New Mexico high school students to take part in the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease’s Step-Up Program, sanctioned by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The program is designed to provide short-term research education to high school and/or undergraduate students from racial and ethnic minority or disadvantaged backgrounds. The program exposes students to research in areas of diabetes, endocrinology, metabolism, nutrition, obesity, digestive, liver, urologic, kidney and hematologic diseases.

Since June, the three New Mexico students have been working on research projects with mentors at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center (UNM HSC).

In August, the students will travel to the NIH headquarters located near Washington, D.C., for a national conference that will allow them to present their research among other program participants around the country.

All three agree that the Step-Up Program has been an excellent opportunity for them so early in their academic careers. Arias, who attends Sandia High School, and Devore, who attends Gallup High School, are both entering their senior years, while Smith, who graduated from La Cueva High School in May, is entering his first semester at UNM this fall.

Eligible participants for this program are high school students who have completed the tenth grade or undergraduate students who have completed at least one year at an accredited institution.

The research experience is provided nationally by experienced investigators in their laboratories for 10 to 12 consecutive weeks during the summer.

For more information on the Step-Up Program, go tohttp://www.nih.gov/.