On Friday, 13 Oklahoma high school and college students completed a summer of biomedical research at OMRF. Their term culminated with formal presentations outlining their individual research results to OMRF’s scientific staff.
For these gifted students, it marked the end of eight weeks of research alongside world-class scientists at OMRF as part of the foundation’s Sir Alexander Fleming Scholar Program.
Since 1956, the program has provided in-state high school and college students a one-of-a-kind opportunity to get hands-on experience in a real research environment.
Of the 13 selected this year, seven hail from the Oklahoma City metro area.
Rachel Jordan, an Oklahoma City native and Bishop McGuinness High School graduate, said her experience in this program has shifted her thinking about research.
“I thought this program would be a great fit for my interests, and it’s been a real dream come true,” said Jordan, a senior biology major at Texas Christian University. “My ultimate goal is to go to medical school and become a physician. My summer at OMRF has really changed my thinking towards the desire to know the exact reasons for your body’s responses and how that relates to treatment and symptoms.”
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.
As summer scholars, the students took part in individual research projects under the direction of senior-level scientist-mentors.
El Reno native Benjamin Houston worked under the guidance of scientist Tim Griffin, Ph.D., studying the effect of steroids on cartilage cells in osteoarthritis. OA is the most common degenerative joint disease in the world, and steroid injection is the most-used method of treatment.
Houston said the experience has deepened his appreciation for medical research and made him want to be involved in the field of biomedical science.
“I want to explore what I believe to be the last frontier: medical research,” said Houston, who will be a freshman at the University of Oklahoma this fall. “This summer has introduced me to many new and intriguing research topics and greatly expanded my scientific knowledge. It has definitely helped me move closer to my goal of helping those around me.”
Edmond North alum McKayla Muse echoed many of the same sentiments about her summer in the program.
“This experience has allowed me to gain better knowledge and about not just science, but also the way a lab operates and the roles people play to make it all operate,” said Muse, a biomedical sciences major at the University of Central Oklahoma. “My goal is to become an immunologist and there is no better place for that than OMRF, so this has been a dream.”
Scholar projects covered a wide range of areas from autoimmune disease to cancer, osteoarthritis, cell biology, heart disease and addiction.
OMRF’s Fleming Scholar Program has served as a launching pad for hundreds of Oklahoma students seeking science-based careers.
For more information on the Fleming Scholar Program, visit www.omrf.org/fleming
The 2018 Fleming Scholars, their hometowns and current schools, are:
Fares Alrefai, Tulsa, University of Tulsa
Matthew Anderson, Durant, Oklahoma Baptist University
Veronica Chamberlain, Fort Towson, SE Oklahoma State University
Azhia Contreras, Edmond, Edmond North High School
Phillip Douglas, Edmond, Cornell University
Dawson Haworth, Fairview, Oklahoma State University
Nathan Herndon, Minco, Oklahoma State University
Benjamin Houston, El Reno, El Reno High School
Rachel Jordan, Oklahoma City, Texas Christian University
Cheryl Kalapura, Tulsa, Cornell University
McKayla Muse, Edmond, University of Central Oklahoma
Oloruntoun Ogunbase, Oklahoma City, Putnam City West High School
Winston Scambler, Oklahoma City, Heritage Hall High School