For 14 gifted science students from around the state, Friday marked the completion of eight weeks of in-depth research at OMRF.
These students took part in OMRF’s prestigious Sir Alexander Fleming Scholar Program where they were given the unique opportunity to work side-by-side with senior-level researchers at the biomedical nonprofit research facility.
As Fleming scholars, these students took part in hands-on, individual research projects studying everything from age-related muscle loss called sarcopenia, to how understanding blood cells called platelets can help advance treatments for cardiovascular disease, to in-depth projects on autoimmune disease like lupus, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.
“This program has certainly opened my mind to how vibrant the scientific community is,” said Westmoore graduate Han Li, who will be a freshman at Emory University this fall. “For example, I saw just how many researchers collaborate with each other through nationwide seminars and through PubMed. I want to explore the research culture further as a result of this experience.”
In addition to working in the lab, Fleming Scholars attended lectures by OMRF scientists to learn about diverse research projects and science-related career options. They attended social events and spent time as a group outside the lab. At the end of the summer, scholars made formal presentations outlining their individual research results to OMRF’s scientific staff.
Moore native and Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics graduate Keirah Jefferson said completing the project and giving a presentation is a challenge in such a short window of time, but it taught her to appreciate the challenges scientists face regularly.
“I have gained more insight on what it is like to be an actual scientist and be listed as an author on a publication. My time at OMRF has motivated me to consider biomedical research, particularly translational research, as a career,” said Jefferson, who will be a freshman at Washington University in St. Louis this fall. “This has been an amazing opportunity. Things like these are rare, and the amount of guidance I’ve received during my time as a Fleming scholar will set a positive tone for my pursuit of science.”
Founded in 1956, the Fleming Scholar Program has provided advanced science training to more than 500 Oklahoma high school and college students. Named for Sir Alexander Fleming, the Nobel Prize-winning scientist who discovered penicillin and in 1949 dedicated OMRF’s first building, the one-of-a-kind program annually attracts up to 100 applicants.
Two current OMRF senior scientists, Judith James, M.D., Ph.D., and Rodger McEver, M.D., started their research careers as Fleming Scholars. James is the Program Chair OMRF’s Arthritis & Clinical Immunology Program, the foundation’s largest program, and McEver is the foundation’s Vice President of Research.
For more information on the Fleming Scholar Program, visit www.omrf.org/fleming.
The 2017 Fleming Scholars, their hometowns and current schools, are:
Abigail Ballard, Norman, Austin College
Monica Davis, Jones, Northern Oklahoma College
Lauren Gawey, Oklahoma City, University of Georgia
Madeline Gish, Edmond, Hillsdale College
Kari Hall, Edmond, University of Oklahoma
Keirah Jefferson, Moore, Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics
Kristy Johnson, Blanchard, Oklahoma State University
Jarett Lewis, Edmond, Bishop McGuiness High School
James Li, Edmond, Washington University in St. Louis
Han Li, Oklahoma City, Westmoore High School
Joshua Ross, Pryor, Oklahoma State University
William Towler, Edmond, Oklahoma State University
Henry Unterschuetz, Tulsa, University of Oklahoma
Kobby Wiafe, Bethany, Baylor University