Shattering frozen flowers, delving into cancer cells and smashing strawberries for DNA—it’s all in a day’s work during the 35th Putnam City Junior Scientist Days at OMRF.
In 1976, after seeing a number of her colleagues diagnosed with cancer, Putnam City Schools teacher Lois Thomas gathered a group and went door to door, collecting change for cancer research. Over the past three-plus decades, students, teachers and parents have raised more than $3.08 million for cancer research at OMRF.
In gratitude for decades of support, each year OMRF opens its doors to promising science students from the district for Putnam City Junior Scientist Days.
This year, 18 elementary school students and, on Friday, 16 middle and high school students spent a day inside OMRF’s high-tech labs, learning about research by working with scientists.
“It was gross and cool!” said Ann George, a 10-year-old 5th grader at Northridge Elementary School. “We were testing heart and liver tissue from rats. It was great.”
George came in wanting to be an astronomer when she grew up, but by lunch time she was ready to switch to a career in medical research.
For OMRF’s scientists, Junior Scientist Days provide a chance to inspire a lifelong passion for learning in the next generation of scientists.
“Science requires brains and drive and critical thinking skills,” said OMRF President Stephen Prescott, M.D. “But enthusiasm is the life blood of research. That’s something these students and scientists share—an excitement for learning something nobody has ever known before.”
The excitement has been fueled by funds raised through bake sales, talent shows, soccer tournaments and 5K runs. The generosity of Putnam City Schools has allowed the purchase of specialized equipment for OMRF laboratories and the creation of the Putnam City Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research, held by OMRF scientist Linda Thompson, Ph.D.
“Putnam City Junior Scientist Days at OMRF continue to be a huge value for our students,” said Putnam City Schools Superintendent Paul Hurst. “Students who take part already have the experience in school of taking a personal role in the fight against cancer. To then spend time with medical researchers and see how high-level science is conducted is such a bonus. It’s a unique and exciting learning opportunity.”