For many students, summer marks a time for rest and relaxation. For sailboats and sunscreen, beachcombing and barbecues.
But don’t tell that to a dozen of Oklahoma’s top high school and college science students. As Sir Alexander Fleming Scholars at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, they’ve opted to trade swimsuits for lab coats so they can help OMRF scientists answer some of biomedical research’s most challenging questions.
“Being a part of the Fleming program this summer has proven to be one of the most meaningful and exciting opportunities I have had during my educational experience,” said Alva’s Ganga Moorthy, who is studying how environmental factors can affect human health, particularly lung disease. “As a Fleming Scholar I have been granted the chance to work alongside some of the world’s best scientists on research that is truly cutting edge and making an impact on lives.”
Melissa Peters of Geary, who will attend Southwestern Oklahoma State University in the fall, said that her experience at OMRF has proven invaluable.
“I cannot even begin to explain how much the Fleming Scholar Program means to me,” said Peters, who is using her time at OMRF to examine the genetic origins of a rare autoimmune disease. “I have already learned so much, and I can’t wait to learn even more.”
Since 1956, OMRF has opened its labs to the state’s most promising students, providing them with opportunities to work alongside senior scientists and publish their findings. Over the years, more than 100 Fleming Scholars have gone on to careers in medicine and research, including Judith James, M.D., Ph.D., and Rod McEver, M.D., both of whom now chair research programs at OMRF.
“It’s a wonderful experience, one that bears fruit for both the students and the scientists,” said OMRF President Stephen Prescott, M.D. “The Fleming Scholars get to do the kind of research that’s rare even for college students, and our scientists benefit from the drive, insight and fresh perspective that these budding researchers bring to the lab.”
The program is named for Sir Alexander Fleming, the scientist who discovered penicillin and first visited the U.S. in 1949 to serve as the keynote speaker at OMRF’s groundbreaking. OMRF is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institute dedicated to understanding and developing more effective treatments for human diseases. Its scientists focus on such critical research areas as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, lupus and cardiovascular disease.
The 2009 Fleming Scholars are:
- Travis Chapman, Moore, Baylor University
- Kristin Colman, Shawnee, Cedarville University
- Destry Elms, Boise City, Oklahoma City University
- D. Frank Han, Edmond, Yale University
- Jacob Keeling, Enid, Oklahoma State University
- Collin Kent, Tulsa, Duke University
- Ganga Moorthy, Alva, University of Oklahoma
- Sean Olsen, Chickasha, Redlands Community College
- Melissa Peters, Geary, Southwestern Oklahoma Sate University
- Alim Ramji, Oklahoma City, University of Oklahoma
- Maria Vera, Tulsa, Oklahoma State University
For more information on the Fleming Scholar Program, visit www.omrf.org/fleming.