Stephanie Wilburn could have spent her summer reading, traveling or just enjoying the free time. But when she landed a Sir Alexander Fleming Scholarship and the opportunity to do hands-on biomedical research for 8 weeks, she jumped at the chance.
Since June 2, Wilburn has worked at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation in Oklahoma City with Susan Kovats, Ph.D., studying the effects of estrogen and tamoxifen on the development of certain immune system cells.
“I didn’t really know what to expect, but I’m more than thrilled with what I’m doing,” Wilburn said. “The best part is that I get to do experiments and ask questions that no one really knows the answers to.”
Wilburn, who hails from Fitzhugh, graduated from Latta High School in 2006 and is currently a senior biochemistry major at Oklahoma Baptist University. As one of nine Fleming scholars, she will complete a research project, write a scientific paper and present her findings in a formal seminar to OMRF scientific staff. The scholarship also includes a $3000 stipend and housing.
“This experience has shown me that I want to do research as a career, because I enjoy this more than anything I’ve done before,” Wilburn said. “Results from basic research lead to developments that help people who are fighting disease. Because I hope to become a physician-scientist one day, now I have a better background for pursuing that career path.”
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
Sishir Mannava, Edmond, Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics
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
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.