ST. JOHN | In the not-so-distant future, Samantha Kowalski could be part of the scientific team that discovers a cure for various cancers and diabetes in children and adults.
The 17-year-old Lake Central High School junior already has worked on promising research as one of 50 Indiana high school students selected to participate the Molecular Medicine In Action program March 10 and 11 at the Herman B. Wells Center for Pediatric Research on the IUPUI campus in Indianapolis.
This research helps scientists understand the roles genes play in diseases and discover new and effective ways to correct genetic flaws, said program director Mark Kelley, associate director of the Wells Center.
Kowalski said she worked “alongside some of the nation’s top-notch researchers using state-of-the-art equipment” in Wells Center labs.
“We jumped straight into the program with an almost six-hour seminar about stem cells and the ethics of using them. These are bioethicists and most of the lecturers also have M.D. degrees,” Kowalski said.
“Listening to them talk about their fields was wonderful. They want to get you into this field of research,” said Kowalski, of St. John. “It was great being around kids my own age who were just as excited as I was.”
The next day Kowalski and her cohorts rotated through workstations and labs, learning how DNA is isolated and analyzed. They also observed how gene mutations are identified and how modified genes are used in therapy.
By actually using the latest microscopic imaging techniques, Kowalski said she learned how researchers study living cells.
“My favorite part was testing a drug to target cancer cells. It worked,” she said. “The researchers said ‘You discovered something with us!’”
Kowalski said the program reaffirmed her determination to enroll in a university program that leads to both a doctorate and a medical degree. Among her possible choices is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for her bachelor’s degree.