Anne Alger and Leah Henry could have spent their summer reading, traveling or just enjoying their free time. But when they each landed Sir Alexander Fleming Scholarships and the opportunity to do hands-on biomedical research for 8 weeks, they jumped at the chance.
Since June 2, Alger and Henry have worked at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation in Oklahoma City on individual research projects. Alger works with Darise Farris, Ph.D., studying how genes work in the development of systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE. Henry’s project, which is under the direction of Rheal Towner, Ph.D., centers on the mechanisms that lead to the formation of brain tumors.
“My lab gives me the perfect balance of letting me learn through doing experiments independently but still guiding me when I need help,” Alger said. “It has been nice to experience research firsthand, because it gives more meaning to the degree I’m pursuing in college.”
Alger and Henry both graduated from Shawnee High School in 2007 and will be sophomores at the University of Oklahoma in the fall. As Fleming scholars, each will complete a research project, write a scientific paper and present her findings in a formal seminar to OMRF scientific staff. The scholarships also include a $3000 stipend and housing.
“I have learned more in my time here about research, biological processes and options for graduate school than I ever could have imagined,” Henry said. “It has shown me that there is so much that I have yet to learn—and that there will always be more to learn. To actually work in a lab and have my own project is an experience I’ll never forget.”
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:
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
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.