This week, the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation welcomed its 55th class of Sir Alexander Fleming Scholars. The students, chosen from a pool of 85 statewide applicants, will spend their summers performing laboratory research at OMRF.
Each will work side-by-side with senior medical researchers on an in-depth, individual research project. At the end of the summer, the students will write scientific papers and present their research results in formal seminars for OMRF’s scientific staff.
“This program is intense by any standards, and it takes a lot of determination for 19- or 20-year-olds to give up an entire summer to be a part of it,” said OMRF President Stephen Prescott, M.D. “But the payback is incredible.”
Since the Fleming Scholar Program began in 1956, nearly 500 Oklahoma students have had their first taste of laboratory research under the guidance of OMRF scientists. More than 100 have gone to careers in medicine and research.
For OMRF researchers like Darise Farris, Ph.D., mentoring a Fleming Scholar increases the level of excitement and enthusiasm throughout her lab. “It gives us an opportunity to explore new ideas that we’ve been thinking about the rest of the year,” Farris said. “Sometimes the results of their projects can create a new direction of research or generate preliminary data for a new idea.”
This summer, Farris will mentor Alexander Mann of Norman, who graduated last month from Norman High School. He will study a newly discovered gene that might be associated with lupus. Little is known about this gene, so Mann will perform experiments to learn how it works in the immune system.
“The Fleming program lets students explore the research track and learn early on if they enjoy it and have an aptitude for it,” said Farris. “It really helps students find out what scientific research entails.”
The 2010 Fleming Scholars are:
- Toby Bothwell, Oklahoma City, Westmoore High School
- Caroline Burnett, Oklahoma City, Southwestern Oklahoma State University
- Bob Cail, Edmond, University of Oklahoma
- Peter Clark, Norman, University of Texas at Austin
- Paul Gorbsky, Edmond, University of Michigan
- Jasmine Htoon, Edmond, Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics
- Jennifer James, Edmond, Baylor University
- Teresa Le, Oklahoma City, Westmoore High School
- Alexander Mann, Norman, Norman High School
- Dipika Mohan, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics
- Halee Patel, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics