The Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation opened its doors Wednesday to advanced science students from Casady School for a tour of OMRF’s state-of-the-art facilities.
Thirty students from Edmond, Norman and Oklahoma City toured the grounds of OMRF for a firsthand look at the high-tech equipment used in scientific experiments. All of the students are enrolled in advanced placement classes in biology, chemistry or genetics.
The idea for the excursion came from Casady teacher and former OMRF Foundation Scholar Julieta Zesiger. The Foundation Scholar Program allows science teachers to spend 4 weeks in the summer developing laboratory experiments for their classrooms.
“When I was here last summer, I was already thinking about how I’d love for my students to see this,” she said. “A lot of these students have expressed an interest in making science a career. Many are planning on medical school.”
After learning about the Donald W. Reynolds Center for Genetic Research, the students took turns visiting the small-animal MRI facility and a lab where scientists study C. elegans, a microscopic worm frequently used for medical research. Later, they met with rheumatologist Dr. Hal Scofield to talk about autoimmune diseases.
Michael Massad, 18, a senior from Edmond, was excited to see C. elegans specimens up close. “I mean, you hear about C. elegans in textbooks, but to see them used in real-life experiments was eye-opening,” he said.
Norman senior Peter Clark, 18, said his favorite part was watching a mouse’s heart beating on an MRI scan. “I didn’t realize we had things like this in Oklahoma,” he said.
Clark said he’s planning a career in biology and will likely apply for OMRF’s Sir Alexander Fleming Scholar Program, which gives students a chance to work alongside scientists for 8 weeks and publish a research paper.
It was the first time senior Grace Dubiskas, 18, from Edmond watched an MRI machine at work. “They showed us a tumor inside a rat,” she said. “It was pretty cool.”
OMRF (omrf.org) is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institute dedicated to understanding and developing more effective treatments for human disease. Its scientists focus on such critical research areas as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, lupus and cardiovascular disease.