Lucas Adams’ grandfather nearly died after contracting a rare tropical disease while aiding in tsunami relief efforts in Indonesia. For Adams, a Putnam City North High School graduate, his grandfather’s experience served as a turning point and showed him just how little is still known about many diseases.
A desire to answer some of those questions prompted Adams to apply for OMRF’s Fleming Scholar Program. He was among 11 Oklahoma students selected for the prestigious program, where he had the opportunity to experience hands-on research alongside senior-level OMRF scientists.
For eight weeks this summer, Adams, now a junior chemistry and mathematics major at Oklahoma Baptist University, worked in the laboratory at OMRF with Courtney Montgomery, Ph.D., studying genetic variations and kidney function in lupus patients. The time spent in Montgomery’s lab was exactly what Adams had wanted.
“OMRF has provided the professional research environment I crave and that will prepare me for a lifetime of medical research,” he said. “I plan to pursue a combined M.D./Ph.D. degree and enter a career in biochemical research.”
In addition to working in the lab, Fleming Scholars attend lectures by OMRF scientists to learn about various research projects and science-related career options. They attend social events and spend time together as a group outside the lab. At the end of the summer, scholars make formal presentations outlining their individual research results to OMRF’s scientists.
OMRF’s Fleming Scholar Program has served as a stepping stone for hundreds of Oklahoma students seeking careers in the sciences. Since 1956, more than 500 gifted science students have received a close-up, hands-on research experience as scholars. Scores of Fleming Scholars have gone on to establish medical and research careers, including two OMRF researchers, Rodger McEver, M.D., and Judith James, M.D., Ph.D., who got their start in the program.
“These students learn a lot here and are exposed to new concepts, but we learn from them, too,” said Carlisa Curry, Fleming Scholar Program director. “They bring enthusiasm and fresh perspectives into OMRF’s labs. It’s clear through what we see in these young people that the future for research is bright.”
For Adams, this summer has assured him that he’s on the right track. “With a focus on infectious and tropical disease research, I can unite my love of medical science with my love of people groups across the globe.”