Duncan grad completes OMRF research program

Duncan High School graduate Sam Allen could have spent his summer reading, traveling or just enjoying a break from classes. But when he was offered the opportunity to do hands-on biomedical research for eight weeks, he jumped at the chance.

Since June 2, Allen has worked as a Presidential Scholar at OMRF in Oklahoma City with Xiao-Hong Sun, Ph.D., in the Immunobiology and Cancer Research Program.

Allen, who will enter Cameron University as a biochemistry major in the fall, is among 13 Oklahoma students selected for OMRF’s prestigious summer programs.

“Although I came into my lab without even an inkling of my project, now I understand my project to a great level of detail,” Allen said. “I have been astounded by how much I have learned about my research topic. This experience has truly been life changing.”

In addition to working in the lab, Fleming and Presidential 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 and Presidential Scholar Programs have 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 former 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 as Fleming Scholars.

“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 Allen, this summer has confirmed his future ambitions. “I think the best part of my experience has been getting to meet and interact with people who share my drive and interest in research,” he said. “My ultimate career goal is to obtain an M.D./Ph.D. degree and become a research neurosurgeon. Now, I not only want to treat patients, I also want to develop the science behind the treatments.”