From dissecting cats and turning gummy bears into jet fuel, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Ray P. Authement College of Sciences hosted more than 500 high school students in its inaugural Science Day on Friday.

Science-minded high school juniors and seniors from across the state converged on UL-Lafayette’s campus to learn more about the university’s College of Science as well as get a taste of the school’s campus life.

“This event is an opportunity to inform high school students, teachers and counselors about the excitement that one can have in the field of science,” College of Sciences Associate Dean Mike Totaro said. “They can get a super education here at UL-Lafayette.”

Totaro said most of the students at the event are interested in joining a scientific field that the university offers training in, such as biology, computer science and informatics, chemistry, geosciences and physics.

Alexa Bryant, a Destrehan High School junior, is keeping UL-Lafayette in mind while she decides which university to attend to achieve her dream of becoming a pediatrician.

“I have other schools in mind, but I’m only a junior so I have time,” she said. “(UL-Lafayette) is close to home, and it’s a small school; I’m not really into big schools like LSU.”

Her mother, Tanya Bryant, agreed.

“It’s a very nice campus,” she said.

The students were divided into groups of 50 and were ushered around to be shown presentations and hands-on experiments, as well as ask questions about the school and their potential major.

“We hope that students who participated will leave campus knowing that UL-Lafayette has a very strong, dynamic college of sciences,” Totaro said. “By noon, everyone will have gone through the different disciplines and have gained a better sense of what exciting career opportunities there are in the area of science.”

Along with the department tours, there were booths outside of Oliver Hall set up by entities like the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and software development company CGI, as well as UL-Lafayette student housing and career services.

Students were able to talk to future employers and ask questions about their fields.

“The feedback from students has actually been really good,” said Ryan Durel, a software developer at CGI. “We’ve had a lot of people circle our booth. We’ve had a lot more questions asked than I was expecting. I expected a lot of people to just shyly walk by, but a lot of people are actually interested in learning about us.”

Science Day is part of this weekend’s SMART Festival, which is an acronym for Science Meets Art. The two-day festival will showcase the intersection of the arts and sciences.

“SMART Festival is illustrative of the deep connections between science and art,” Totaro said. “Both involve exploration, discovery and creativity but in different ways. We want to highlight those connections, so it should be a fun two days.”