Pipette in hand, 14-year-old Zhong Thai wasn’t just surprised to be separating protein molecules — he was surprised the OMRF even existed.
“I had no idea this place was here,” the Capps Middle School 8th grader said. “It’s pretty cool.”
Thai and 35 other Putnam City Schools students visited OMRF Wednesday and today to tug on lab gloves and go to work alongside researchers for Putnam City Junior Scientist Days.
Since 1975, Putnam City students, teachers and parents have raised more than $2.8 million for cancer research at OMRF. And for 35 years, the foundation has repaid their generous gifts by opening its doors and letting elementary, middle and high school students spend a day doing cutting-edge research with OMRF’s world-class scientist.
Students who participate in the program are chosen by teachers as those who show the most interest and promise in science.
“We’re thrilled to be a part of this long-lasting partnership,” said Putnam City Schools Superintendent Paul Hurst. “It’s so good for the students, not just because it teaches them about science, but also because they see the importance of their work in our annual cancer drive.”
It’s also good for the scientists, said OMRF scientist Ken Humphries, Ph.D., who invited 6th grader Anthony Villanueva into his lab to do an experiment about the damage caused to the heart when blood returns after a heart attack.
“Sometimes we forget how cool our jobs are,” he said. “Having students in the lab with us is a reminder that science doesn’t just save lives – it’s pretty fun, too.”
The air is electric on Putnam City Junior Scientist Days, said OMRF President Stephen Prescott, M.D.
“Sharing our work with students, and maybe even inspiring the next generation of OMRF research scientists, is a thrill we look forward to all year long,” he said. “Even the ones who don’t know we’re here until they show up.”