High school students play key roles as members of the USC program Science, Technology and Research, better known as STAR. STAR is a partnership between USC and the Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School — located just southeast of the Health Sciences Campus — in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The students take part in projects seeking solutions to some of the world’s most challenging illnesses, including cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and HIV/AIDS. On Aug. 1, the USC School of Pharmacy hosted a celebration marking the program’s 25th anniversary.

“Over 600 students have completed the STAR program since we started it 25 years ago,” said Roberta Diaz Brinton, R. Pete Vanderveen Professor in Therapeutic Discovery and Development at the School of Pharmacy and the program’s director. “These students have contributed to over 100 scientific publications, listing them as co-authors while still in high school. And 100 percent of our STAR students have gone onto universities — many to the nation’s elite schools like USC, Harvard, Yale, MIT, Princeton and Stanford.”

The evening held in STAR’s honor brought together current students, recent graduates now in college or graduate school and successful alumni who shared their experiences. Among them was Arthur Ohannessian, now a physician at UCLA.

“I couldn’t wait to come to this reunion to say thank you,” he said. “I would not have the career I have and be able to make the impact on my patients and my family if not for the STAR program.”

He was the first in his family to go to college, said Ohannessian, who credits STAR with influencing his decision to go into family medicine.

During his time with the program, Ohannessian was credited on three professional publications that he is proud to still have on his dossier, he said.

Ohannessian’s sentiments were repeated throughout the evening as STAR alumni talked about their past experiences and current positions.

— By Kukla Vera