Nineteen researchers recently presented their findings on everything from Alzheimer's disease to adult strokes, malaria and cancer treatment to an audience of over 100 people.
Although these are major health issues impacting people around the globe, surprisingly, these young researchers aren't even in college yet. They're all high school students from the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD).
After spending eight weeks under the tutelage of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine faculty, the 19 high school students who participated in this summer's Scientific Enrichment and Opportunity Program (SEO) unveiled their capstone projects last Thursday.
Now in its sixth year, the SEO program is designed to nurture students who express an interest in the fields of biomedical science and health professions. Administered through Case Western Reserve University's Center for Science, Health & Society, the SEO program was initiated in 2003 with the encouragement of Patricia K. Hunt, director of research at Hathaway Brown School in Shaker Heights, and Benson P. Lee, president of Technology Management Inc. The St. Luke's Foundation and the Sam and Maria Miller Foundation also have provided support for the program. School of Medicine faculty members serve as both project advisers and career mentors.
Speaking before a crowd in the Biomedical Research Building atrium that included their families, the campus community, Case Western Reserve President Barbara R. Snyder, and City of Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, each student spent about 10 minutes giving an overview of their research.
City of Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said he was impressed by the SEO program participants. "Education is the key to our success." He said the young researchers' pursuits, and education in general, "helps enhance the quality of life for Cleveland, the state and around the country." Jackson said talking with a few of the students about their projects "showed me how bright, intelligent and committed these young people are if you give them the opportunity to excel."
Acknowledging the program's success, Jackson presented Berger and the SEO program with a proclamation from the City of Cleveland, and each SEO student received an individual proclamation signed by the Cuyahoga County Board of Commissioners.
Fay Catacutan, a student at James F. Rhodes High School, spent the summer researching Alzheimer's disease. "I'm really interested in the brain. It works so many different ways," she explained before she presented her project, which involved studying xanthine oxidase activity levels, or the presence of metals in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease.
Catcutan, who is in the 11th grade, said the two-month project "opened my eyes to a world of things. I want to pursue neurology," she added.
She's already on the right path to a future career said Mark Smith, a pathologist at the School of Medicine who served as Catacutan's adviser. He said her research findings might end up being published. 'We've still got some work to do, but she did great."
Nathan Berger, Hanna-Payne Professor of Experimental Medicine and director of the Center for Science, Health & Society, said the SEO program nurtures inner city high school students who want to delve into research beyond what they study during their regular academic year. "They're selected for their potential interest in science and health care professions. The purpose of the program is to stimulate and enhance their interest and abilities," he explained.
He said the program is especially important because of the city's demographics. The CMSD is considered one of the largest and most economically challenged in the state, and that "Cleveland is plagued with health care disparities. It helps students from the inner city to develop this interest. If they pursue health care professions, it could lead to their own socioeconomic upgrade," Berger said. He added that because the students are exposed to innovative research here, those who do end up pursuing science or health careers hopefully will practice in their hometown.
Berger said since the program's inception, all of the program's participants who have sent in follow up information about their whereabouts have gone on to attend college. In addition, several of the SEO program alumni have attended Case Western Reserve.
The 2008 SEO program participants and their primary School of Medicine preceptors were:
Case Western Reserve University is committed to the free exchange of ideas, reasoned debate and intellectual dialogue. Speakers and scholars with a diversity of opinions and perspectives are invited to the campus to provide the community with important points of view, some of which may be deemed controversial. The views and opinions of those invited to speak on the campus do not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration or any other segment of the university community.