Chickasha High School graduate Tyler Vasquez-Dorn could have spent his summer reading, traveling or just enjoying a break from classes. But when he was selected as a Fleming Scholar and offered the opportunity to do hands-on biomedical research for eight weeks, he jumped at the chance.
Since June 2, Vasquez-Dorn has worked at OMRF in Oklahoma City with Tim Griffin, Ph.D., studying pain behavior in acute knee joint inflammation in mice.
Vasquez-Dorn, a sophomore biomedical engineering major at the University of Rochester, is among 11 Oklahoma students selected for the prestigious program.
“At OMRF, I’ve had the opportunity to work with people who are experts in their field,” he said. “Just by interacting with them, whether performing experiments or just talking, I am learning so much that I can use later on in my career.”
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.”
“My experience here has been incredible and one I hope I will be able to give someone else one day,” Vasquez-Dorn said.