Jim Maher shared his personal journey of research and discovery with 36 science-minded high school students attending the University of Missouri-St. Louis’ Students and Teachers as Research Scientists program – more commonly known as STARS – at their graduation ceremony on Friday morning.
In a virtual presentation titled “The Dangers of Driving with a Broken Engine,” Maher, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, explained to students the origins of his interest in paraganglioma, beginning by its operation. to remove a cancerous tumor in her abdomen at the age of 14 in 1975.
Paraganglioma is a type of neuroendocrine tumor that can form in blood vessels and nerves outside of the adrenal glands, and Maher pursues an ongoing quest to better understand the disease through multiple recurrences in different parts of his body over the years. over the decades that followed.
“Why I studied this cancer is partly because it affects me and made me curious, but also because it is such a confusing cancer,” Maher said. “When I started talking about it with my doctor and learning more about the biochemistry of this cancer, I found it irresistibly bizarre, and there weren’t a lot of people studying it.”
It is this curiosity that has supported his work, not only on paraganglioma but on other research topics such as DNA flexibility, artificial regulation of genes and multiple sclerosis, and this is what Maher was hoping the students would take away from his talk of about 20 minutes.
“I want you to stay curious and not give up on things that don’t make sense and go after them because you think they’re fascinating,” Maher told them. “I hope that one day some of you will move towards careers in molecular biology, basic sciences or doctorate. But whatever you do with your curiosity, I am very proud that you are honorable scientists, doctors and leaders in our society in the future. So thank you for already being an inspiration. I want you to take this curiosity with you to the next step.
The STARS program has been working to stimulate this curiosity among talented high school students in the region since 1989. Students, as they approach their final years, are paired with local scientists in the fields of biology, chemistry, science and technology. computer science, earth sciences, science, mathematics, medicine, physics and psychology and gain direct research experience for six weeks during the summer.
“It’s a transformation for the students doing it,” said Meghann Humphries, assistant professor in the biology department at UMSL who served as the program coordinator this summer. “I think it really opens their eyes to what exactly science is and how you need to persist. It is not clean. It is not fast. It’s frustrating. It takes time. You have setbacks and you have to stick to them. I think it’s a big problem for them to go through.
STARS had to be canceled last summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and lingering uncertainty over the public health situation led Humphries to adapt it to a virtual format. Students attended conferences on Zoom rather than in person with scientists from diverse backgrounds and coordinated their own research projects under the guidance of one of the 18 principal investigators of the faculty of UMSL, University from St. Louis or Washington University in St. Louis.
It was more difficult than usual to find faculty members willing to welcome students to their labs this summer, due to uncertain circumstances, so they could not offer as many places in the program as in one. typical year. But there was still a lot of demand.
“It was extremely competitive this year, even though it was a different arrangement,” said Humphries. “We received nearly 100 applications. We ended up accepting these 36 from 15 different high schools in the region.
They conducted research on topics such as electrochemistry, gastroenterology, machine learning, pollinator biology and robotics, and they gained insight into the college admission process and the way to write a solid essay to accompany their applications.
“The vast majority of them plan to become doctors, but a lot of them won’t,” Humphries said. “So what I wanted to do was expose them to all of these possible research careers that are either medically adjacent or, in some cases, totally separate from medicine, because I think they’re super interesting, and I thinks students might find them interesting too and open their eyes to other options.
The students who made up this year’s STARS class were:
Riya Aradhyula, Marquette High School
Siri Battula, Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School
Shelly bhagat, Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School
Arya Bhushan, Ladue Horton Watkins High School
Cedric Burges, Saint Louis Priory School
Driptta Chakraborty, Marquette High School
Karthik Digavalli, Fort Zumwalt South High School
Ellie Gira, Mary Institute and St Louis Country Day School
Angad gothra, Saint Louis University High School
Saanvi Gowda, Fort Zumwalt West High School
Jiabei Han, Clayton High School
Deena Iqbal, Lafayette High School
Sanjana Iyer, Marquette High School
Tejasvini Kadiyala, Lafayette High School
Aditya Kondepudi, Ladue Horton Watkins High School
Ryan lally, Saint Louis Priory School
Priyanka Mahadev, St. Dominic High School
Trisha manne, Parkway West High School
Robert mize, Saint Louis University High School
Mitchell oldham, Lindbergh High School
Rhea Patney, Ladue Horton Watkins High School
Pooja reddy, Lafayette High School
Soham Saraf, Marquette High School
Emma Scally, Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School
Tejal Shanker, Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School
Kanishk Shanmugam, Ladue Horton Watkins High School
Inchara Shetty, Parkway Central High School
Surya Sompalli, Fort Zumwalt West High School
taylor souk, Timberland High School
Angelina Spencer, Westminster Christian Academy
Rohan Tatikonda, Ladue Horton Watkins High School
Richard taylor, Saint Louis University High School
Daniel Xu, Ladue Horton Watkins High School
Yiyun Xu, Clayton High School
Supraneth Yedem, Marquette High School
Danielle Zhang, Ladue Horton Watkins High School
Short url: https://blogs.umsl.edu/news/?p=90020