During senior year at Bio-Med Science Academy, a rural STEM + M school located on the NEOMED campus, students are given the opportunity to complete an internship or research project with University faculty and staff. Seventeen students are taking advantage of opportunities right on the campus. This article, the first of two, is about students who have found a place working with renowned researchers—and are discovering where their own passions lie.
Erica Scarpitti is diving into her interest in evolutionary biology by working with Hans Thewissen, Ph.D., a NEOMED researcher recently quoted in a CBS News feature on how humpback whales hear. Erica assists in studying dolphin embryos and the rotation of the middle ear ossicles during the mammal’s development. This study is being done to learn more about the adaptations that mammals have made as they have evolved. “I really love the opportunity to work with Dr. Thewissen and Ms. McBurney on this project because they're really amazing people and they're always willing to answer my questions,’’ says Erica.
Alex Wooldredge was so excited about her internship with Yoonkwang Lee, Ph.D., in the Department of Integrative Medical Sciences that she started back in July. “Over the summer I worked with an amazing medical student, Ryan Mifflin, who taught me everything from how to handle lab mice to how to run polymerase chain reactions and gel electrophoresis, (techniques used in molecular biology to look at DNA). Most people have to wait until college to participate in research, so I feel really lucky to be getting to do all this while still in high school,” Wooldredge says.
Like these girls, Cierra Spriggs has an internship that focuses on her career interests. She is working in the Cooper Lab, which is part of the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology. Her research topic? Learning why bat bones are more flexible than human bones to better understand bone biology and development in humans.
Christopher Jones is analyzing tinnitus research under the supervision of Alexander Galazyuk, Ph.D., in the Department of Neuroscience. Under the supervision of Jesse Young, Ph.D., Riley Jenkins and Jeffery Valli are tracking data about squirrels and monkeys in the Bio-Mechanics Laboratory so that eventually more can be understood about the evolution and development of locomotion in land animals. They have chosen to continue an internship that was begun by the 2016 senior class.
As they are learning, answering basic science research questions can take years.
--Gabrielle Biltz is a senior at Bio-Med Science Academy and an intern in the NEOMED Office of Public Relations and Marketing.