By Quinn Eastman
Medical student Casey Woodward and aspiring researcher Brahma Natarajan first discovered the wonders of the laboratory as two of hundreds of high school juniors from the Atlanta area who have participated in the Summer Scholars Research Program at Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute.
“We provide a genuine experience in a biomedical research laboratory for high school students who have a keen interest in science,” says oncologist Mary Jo Lechowicz, assistant professor of hematology and medical oncology and director of the Winship Summer Scholars program.
Woodward returned to Winship each summer during her undergraduate years to work with Lechowicz, her faculty mentor. “My family didn’t have much of a medical background, and getting to work as part of the medical community was really valuable,” says Woodward, now a medical student at the University of Pennsylvania. “It helped me understand how much we know and how much we don’t.”
Natarajan, a senior at McIntosh High School in Peachtree City, worked in Winship biochemist Anita Corbett’s lab last summer, studying the yeast cousin of a protein thought to be involved in human breast cancer. Two graduate students in the lab taught her how to run gels, perform Western blots, and create mutations in proteins.
“Now that I have experienced how a lab works, I have gotten excited about continuing research in college,” Natarajan says.
The program, started by local Westminster High School biology teacher Andrea Allio ten years ago, has both academic and practicum components. Faculty treat the students as full members of the lab team. Students also take field trips throughout Winship, visit the labs in Emory’s medical school, and become grounded in published articles on cancer biology.