Weleetka grad completes OMRF summer program

Tanner Bowen could have spent his summer reading, traveling or just enjoying the fact that he had finished high school. 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, Bowen has worked at OMRF in Oklahoma City with Courtney Griffin, Ph.D., studying the role of an enzyme involved in the process of programmed cell death and its effects on embryonic development.

“The best part of my summer is that I get to take part in real research that matters to my lab specifically and the scientific community as a whole,” Bowen said. “I am not sitting at a lab station making solutions. I am actually carrying out a research project.”

Bowen, who will enter Oklahoma Christian University as a biochemistry major this fall, is among 11 Oklahoma students selected for the prestigious program.

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 Bowen, this summer has assured him that he’s on the right track. “I have a passion for science and a love for big ideas. I am extremely grateful for this time at OMRF, and I know that this experience will make a difference in both my personal and professional life.”