For Academy of Richmond County science teacher Judy Ward and four current and recently graduated high school students, the best summer vacation entails lessons in biomedical research, empiricisms and lab safety.
As the students scrawl on a white board and discuss the scientific method in a small Georgia Regents University classroom, Ward smiles with obvious joy. After all, it’s just the second day of GRU’s summer biomedical research program, and she has five weeks left to work with them.
After the initial orientation period, the teenagers will be working alongside GRU researchers as they study sickle cell anemia and eventually present science projects of their own. Ward will facilitate the student’s projects.
“It’s a great opportunity for them, really once in a lifetime. I love seeing kids do this so much, considering my background in scientific research,” Ward said. “They’ll be working alongside scientists and see what working in the science field really means. It will give them all the skills they need.”
GRU’s first-ever summer biomedical research program is designed to introduce students to the rigors of biomedical research. The program, funded through grants provided by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, ends Aug. 1.
Participating students were excited about the experience.
Bradford Grant, a 17-year-old Shiloh High School student with sickle cell anemia, hopes to gain insight into the biomedical field.
“I want to be able to help others, and the best way to do that is by working with professionals and being in the trenches,” Grant said. “I really want to make sure I can get that out of this experience.”
James Stair, a 17-year-old Davidson Fine Arts student, said he “always wanted” to do research in the medical field.
“My dream is to help people by curing something,” Stair said. “That’s always been there for me. I think this is the best way to learn about it.”
GRU Professor Robert Gibson said the idea of a summer program was “embraced” by all those working under the NIMHD grant, and that the program would allow it’s participants a glimpse into the world of research.
“We did summer camps like this in the past … and having that success made us want to have high school students back on our campus,” Gibson said. “It’s a lot of fun for us. Most students will only see the end point of what scientists do. Now they have the ability to meet scientists and be able to spend their days in our labs. They’ll be able to experience that for themselves.”
Research Manager Carol Dickerson looks forward to having time to share information about her field with program attendees.
“There are some things you can’t teach in just a week or two weeks,” Dickerson said. “I’m glad for the extra time. I didn’t have this kind of experience before I went to college, and it definitely would have been beneficial.”