2 students awarded chance to perform biomedical research
By Lindsay Starr Platt
This summer, two high school students from Belton had the opportunity to participate and conduct real-life biomedical research with Texas Bio Science Institute (TBI). After which, on Aug. 9, the two students, Jonathan Teston and Brittney Vrooman, had the chance to present visuals and speak about their 10 weeks of research at a public presentation at TBI.
Students who participate in the TBI Middle College program are paired with researchers from several Central Texas higher learning institutions, including Baylor Scott & White Hospital, Texas A&M College of Medicine, Texas A&M University-Central Texas, and the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.
Teston had the chance to study and research the treatment effects of an experimental plant compound on glioblastoma cells – the cells that cause brain cancer. Teston studied under Dr. Ekokobe Fonkem in his lab at Baylor Scott & White.
Vrooman of Belton worked in the lab of Dr. Nasir Uddin at Texas A&M College of Medicine and participated in ovarian cancer research, specifically studying a certain compound to learn if it has the ability to inhibit ovarian cancer.
“I believe the best moment about this experience is when they are able to see the culmination of all their hard work at the poster presentations,” said Kristen Griffith, admissions coordinator for Texas Bioscience Institute. “It is not a moment that many students can say they have experienced. Programs like this may not necessarily help students experience the medical field in real life; instead, what they are experiencing is the research field, sometimes medically-related, in real life. Many students who attend programs like this come to us because they are STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics)-focused, but very few have narrowed down the specific field in which they would like to specialize. Even the students who believe they are medical-focused can develop new interests and goals.”
Students who are considering TBI Middle College program are encouraged to tour the facility. Students attending the TBI Middle College program are immersed in a rigorous college curriculum and is a valuable opportunity to earn as much as 60 college credit hours in state core curriculum prior to graduating from high school. The students can complete an Associate’s degree even before finishing high school and or have a great start to a successful academic STEM career.
“This program gives students the chance to explore many different career fields through practicing professionals through our Friday lecture series and even given the opportunity to experience real-life research every summer,” said Griffith.
“I would note that our research program has attracted regional as well as national attention. We had significant support from the National Science Foundation for a six-year period that concluded last August. During that time, we had the opportunity to report on our success once a year at a meeting in Washington, D.C. Continuing support for our program was made possible this summer through the generous support of several local organizations,” said John P. Idoux, Ph.D., Partner-in, Residence & Coordinator, Middle College Research Program, Texas Bioscience Institute, Emeritus Research Professor, Tarleton State University.
Temple College facilitates the TBI Middle College program. To date, more than 500 students have participated since the program was started in 2006. Middle College program students have been able to participate in summer research programs since 2009.
“The best moment for these students is to see how the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) academics they study are applied to a real-life research model or project where they have to use high order problem-solving skill sets to do the experiments, develop the computer programming or figure out if a treatment or trauma increase or decreases a certain reaction. They also experience being part of a team, stretching themselves educationally, and working with diverse professionals from possibly all over the world. They come out of it with a better understanding of what they may want to pursue or not pursue in their academic careers. They learn how research studies work and hopefully with a sense that they would like to persist in a STEM field,” said Dr. Dan Spencer, Administrator, Temple College. “As undergraduate students, they are part of a research team that is working on many common problems or issues of the medical field and or the world. Students often get a chance to be part of researching a disease or medical issue that is personal or relevant to them.”
For many students, the research opportunities at TBI Middle College program helps them realize what subjects they do or don’t like. Students also have the chance to participate in valuable experiences they can add to their resume.
“It is not for everyone but, students who participate can take part in a program that will prepare them for being successful at the college level, provide them opportunities to expand their knowledge beyond the classroom with activities like our Silver Cord Criteria, Summer Research Experience, Summer Math Institute, and our Friday Lecture Series,” said Spencer.