Kingfisher High School graduate Brandon Hubbard 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, Hubbard has worked at OMRF in Oklahoma City with Chris Sansam, Ph.D., studying a tool called CRISPR/Cas9 that allows scientists to make alterations in the genetics of zebrafish, which are used to learn the causes of birth defects and cancer.
Hubbard, a junior psychology and physiology major at Oklahoma State University, is among 11 Oklahoma students selected for the prestigious program.
“Before coming to OMRF, I did not know with certainty whether or not a career in research was what I wanted,” he said. “After this experience, I am certain that I want to continue in research and use every ounce of potential I have to make the world healthier and, in turn, happier.”
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 Hubbard, this summer has confirmed that he is on the right career path. “I plan to spend my career researching, diagnosing and treating illnesses,” he said. “I am particularly interested in researching cancer and autoimmune diseases. While I love lab research, I know more than anything I am called to perform medical work for those who do not easily have access to it.”