OMRF opens doors for Putnam City Junior Scientists

Scientists and students have a lot in common.

“A large part of science is about asking questions and figuring out how to answer them,” said OMRF President Stephen Prescott, M.D. “Children have an innate curiosity, just like our scientists.”

OMRF opened its doors to 18 of those inquisitive minds Tuesday during Putnam City Junior Scientists Days. For 36 years, students from Putnam City Schools have been visiting the laboratories to learn about research from real scientists.

It’s one way the foundation says thank you to the teachers, students and parents of Putnam City who have raised more than $3.16 million for cancer research at OMRF.

It started in 1976, when teacher Lois Thomas saw a number of her colleagues diagnosed with cancer. Rather than sit idly by, she gathered a group and went door to door, collecting change for cancer research. In gratitude for their support, OMRF welcomes promising science students from the district for Putnam City Junior Scientist Days.

Whether they’re observing blood vessels under a microscope or learning about how DNA is analyzed, it’s an invaluable learning experience for students, said Putnam City Schools Superintendent Dr. Fred Rhodes.

“For our students, the reward for raising money to support cancer research is knowing they’re helping families just like theirs,” Rhodes said. “Putnam City Junior Scientist Days at OMRF are an added benefit. We hope that spending time in the lab and seeing how research is done will inspire some of them to become the next generation of scientists.”

11-year-old Bodie White, a 5th grader at Central Elementary School spent the day learning about and extracting DNA…from strawberries.

“I had a blast!” said White, dropping a chunk of fruit into a container of liquid nitrogen.

The excitement was infectious as Dylan Harpole, 11, from Arbor Grove Elementary got a vial of his own genes from a cheek swab.

“It came from right here,” he said, pointing to his smiling mouth. “The easiest way to get DNA.”

Older Putnam City students enjoyed their day at OMRF in March.

A Putnam City Academy senior, Kendrick, 17, spent a few hours crushing mouse bones for their marrow, then divided and counted the cells.

“That was pretty cool,” she said. “I’m still trying to figure out what I’m going to study in college next year but this…I liked this.”