Sishir Mannava could have spent his summer reading, traveling or just enjoying the fact that he had finished high school. But when he landed a Sir Alexander Fleming Scholarship and the opportunity to do hands-on biomedical research for 8 weeks, he jumped at the chance.
“This is like no other program I’ve ever experienced,” Mannava said. “The research is real, the mentors are amazing, and our lab partners are postdoctoral or medical school students. Every day brings something new to my eyes.”
Since June 2, Mannava has worked at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation in Oklahoma City with Dario Ramirez, Ph.D., studying how smoking, along with other environmental triggers, can lead to detrimental, and in some cases irreversible, damage to DNA.
Mannava, an Edmond resident, graduated from the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics in May. He will enter Vanderbilt University in the fall. As one of nine Fleming scholars, he will complete a research project, write a scientific paper and present his findings in a formal seminar to OMRF scientific staff. The scholarship also includes a $3000 stipend and housing.
Mannava said that his Fleming Scholar experience has helped him feel better informed about educational opportunities that lie ahead. It has even caused him to look at a different area of study. “This initial exposure to research in the area of oxidative damage to DNA and genetics has been so interesting to me that I have decided to seek more opportunities to conduct research on it at Vanderbilt in my undergraduate studies,” Mannava said.
The Fleming Scholars program has served as a model for similar programs nationwide since its creation in 1956. More than 450 students have been trained through the program at OMRF. Two of OMRF’s faculty members, Judith James, M.D., Ph.D., and Rodger McEver, M.D., got their start as Fleming Scholars.
OMRF president Stephen Prescott, M.D., sees the program as a two-way benefit. “Granted, these students learn a lot here and are exposed to new concepts, state-of-the-art laboratories and a real-life work environment. But we learn from them, too. They bring enthusiasm and fresh perspectives into OMRF’s labs and keep us as scientists on our toes. And it’s clear through what we see in these young people that the future for research is bright.”
The other 2008 Fleming Scholars are:
Anne Alger, Shawnee, University of Oklahoma
Leah Henry, Oklahoma City, University of Oklahoma
Jack Laurent, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma State University
Sara Moore, Norman, Southeastern Oklahoma State University
Alia Ramirez, Oklahoma City, Classen School of Advanced Studies
Johnnie West, Lawton, Lawton High School
Meaghan Wierzbic, Harrah, Harrah High School
Stephanie Wilburn, Fitzhugh, Oklahoma Baptist University
For more information on the Fleming Scholar Program, visit www.omrf.org/fleming.
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.