For eight weeks this summer, a group of local high school students explored treatments for cancer, infertility, epilepsy and diabetes at Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute.
The experiences were part of LA BioMed’s Summer Fellowship Program, which has offered science learning opportunities for aspiring doctors and researchers for 38 years. The group receives more than 100 applications each year, and selects students with high grades and interest in the scientific and medical fields.
The fellows — 18 graduating high school students and rising high school seniors — worked on separate biomedical research projects, getting hands-on experience in the lab and working with accomplished doctors and field researchers. Each student was assigned a research project and mentor who provided them with guidance and aid throughout the research process.
The students presented their findings in a culmination ceremony Thursday to a packed room of researchers, family and friends at the County Harbor-UCLA Medical Center campus.
Diamond Bar High School student Kristie Leung, for example, presented her research on chemotherapy and its effect on fertility. She and her research mentor explored the effects of a peptide called Humanin that may help preserve fertility after chemotherapy. They performed tests on groups of mice.
“It was a lot of in-lab stuff, so we actually worked as if we were employees, which was very interesting,” Leung said. “My favorite thing about it was getting the experience of an actual lab technician and meeting people with similar interests.”
Mira Costa High School student Ryan Cosner presented his research on the efficacy of genetic disease treatment. He said the fellowship immersed him in a world of biochemical research that he had never experienced before.
“It’s really cool to be on this side of science,” Cosner said. “In high school, you read from a textbook and see the lab you’re supposed to do and the expected result. But here, we have no idea what’s going to happen. To be on the discovering side of technology and to be doing stuff that no one has ever done before is really exciting.”
Cosner said he learned a lot from his mentor, Dr. Patricia Dickson, who works in the Harbor-UCLA Division of Medical Genetics.
“It’s really inspiring,” Cosner said. “The first day I went into her office, I saw pictures of people she has treated, and letters from patients for all the work she’s done. It’s really amazing to be able to work alongside these people.”
Daisey Miller, a fellow from San Pedro High School, said each student gained a better understanding of what specific fields in science and medicine interest them.
“Thanks to this fellowship, I think we’ve all had a better idea of what we want to do with our future,” Miller said. “Whether or not its medical school or majoring in biochemistry or just wanting to be a lab technichian, thanks to this program, it’s become increasingly clear. We gained knowledge and experience for the future.”
Dr. Basil Ibe, the program director, finished the culminating ceremony with praise for each fellow.
“These are juniors and seniors in high school, and for them to comprehend these ideas, articulate them and present them, I’m so proud of you,” Ibe said to the fellows. “I hope that you continue this enthusiasm as you go on on in your life.”