Since 2009, the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation has hosted 41 students from U.S. military academies as part of its John H. Saxon Service Academy Summer Research Program. Until this year, however, only two students were Oklahomans.
Casady School graduate Samuel Jun, a senior biology major at the U.S. Air Force Academy, is now the third. Jun said he was “blown away” by his OMRF experience, from the scientists themselves and the technology in the labs to the foundation’s diverse staff – more than 30 countries are represented at OMRF.
More than anything, Jun appreciated OMRF’s environment. “You can tell how much OMRF cares about their people,” he said.
Open to any military academy student, the Saxon program compresses an intensive summer internship into three to four weeks, culminating in a presentation of their research. John Saxon III, M.D., a Muskogee physician and OMRF board member since 2000, established the program to honor his father, a West Point graduate who taught at the U.S. Air Force Academy and was a career Air Force pilot.
“You’re not going to find any more dynamic people than the cadets in our service academies,” Saxon said. “My father told me that being a West Point graduate opened doors for him from then on, and I tell these students the same holds true about OMRF. Even if you’re here for a short time, having that after your name means something.”
Jun worked in the lab of OMRF scientist Susannah Rankin, Ph.D., who studies how chromosomes are duplicated and packaged during cellular division. The biology major studied whether two distinct proteins interact with each other and, if so, how that affects different cell types.
He made an impression on Rankin, who singled out his can-do attitude and willingness to learn. “Samuel made a significant contribution to an ongoing project in our lab,” Rankin said. “His result helps us to better understand how every new cell is able to inherit a perfect copy of the genome.”
After graduation, Jun will begin a five-year military commitment. But he hasn’t ruled out medical school.
“I was shocked by what I was able to do at OMRF this summer,” says Jun. “I’m excited to see what the world has to offer.”