Four U.S. military academy students have completed a crash course in biomedical research at OMRF through the John H. Saxon Service Academy Summer Research Program.
OMRF board member John Saxon, M.D., of Muskogee established the program in honor of his late father, a West Point graduate and career Air Force pilot. Each summer, OMRF provides military academy students the opportunity to perform hands-on research with senior scientists. This summer, two midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and cadets from the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., and the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, NY, spent time in OMRF laboratories.
“Of all the summer programs available, this one appeared to me to be the most interesting and rewarding,” said Ryan Gall of Clinton Township, Mich., a third-year midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy, who worked with Roberto Pezza, Ph.D., to learn more about a protein called Shoc1 and its role in some genetic diseases. “My time at OMRF has helped me gain a better understanding of medical research, and I plan to use this experience to further my science education.”
Students are selected by science faculty at each academy. They plan their stays at OMRF around their summer military training exercises. The Saxon program runs alongside OMRF’s larger Fleming Scholar Program and is the newest of the foundation’s long-running educational initiatives. Since 1956, OMRF has trained more than 500 Oklahoma high school and college students through the Fleming Scholar Program, and more than 800 advanced-degree students have trained in OMRF labs through postdoctoral fellowships and graduate student scholarships.
“John Saxon’s dream of honoring his father and enriching the careers of young military students has come true,” said OMRF President Stephen Prescott, M.D. “We now have three academies represented in this program. It’s our pleasure to have these students work with us each summer and to offer them research training that will benefit them during their military service and beyond.”
Air Force Academy cadet Jakob Fischer of Falcon, Colo., and West Point cadet Cameron Steele from Oklahoma City also gained valuable experience in the program. “In school, all too often we conduct experiments with a known and expected outcome,” said Steele. “Here, though, it’s hard to tell what the result of an experiment will be, because it is often the first experiment or research of its kind.”
For midshipman Mack Qin of San Francisco, OMRF provided a one-of-a-kind opportunity for an undergraduate. “Very rarely do college students have the chance to work in a state-of-the-art lab with all the tools to pursue a complex project,” said Qin. “Working at the cutting edge of medical research and getting to know the great personalities here have definitely been the highlight of my summer.”