Tylen Kelly held up the small round plate and pointed to several light-blue squiggles on the surface of an amber gel. “Those are the ones we’re after,” she said.
The squiggles were lines of yeast growing on a Petri dish. The yeast’s light blue color marked cells carrying a modified gene. Kelly and her fellow Duarte High School students experimented with the microorganisms at City of Hope this summer.
From left, Glenn Manthey, Tylen Kelly and Jeff Radsick discuss Kelly’s research project. (Photo by Darrin S. Joy)
Kelly, 17, is one of 11 students who spent their school break learning basic laboratory research skills as part of City of Hope’s partnership with the Duarte Unified School District. Funded by a National Institutes of Health Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA), the eight-week course aimed to give the students insight into scientific research taking place right in their backyard.
Susan Kane, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Cancer Biology, is principal investigator on the SEPA grant.
“We designed this course to give the students real-world experience,” Kane said. The experiments are real and the results, if unique or interesting, could be published in a scientific journal, with credit going to the students.
For Kelly, a talkative sister to five siblings who entered her senior year this month, the opportunity could help her fulfill her dream of becoming a surgeon and researcher — and world traveler.
“I want to be able to do medicine and research because I’d be able to travel the world and tell others about the science I do,” she said, smiling. “That would put several things I like to do together in a bundle: I like to travel, I like to talk and I like research.”
She wasn’t always so sure about medicine and research as a career, however.
“For a long time I wanted to go into politics. Then in my freshman year, I took a biology class and absolutely loved it,” she said. “That’s when I thought, ‘Okay, then maybe I want to go into a medical field.’”
Now she is focusing on a college major in a biological science, with a minor in politics, she said. “I still like politics, but I’m balancing two different interests and loves.”
Kelly also hopes to submit the research she is doing as part of the NAACP’s ACT-SO (Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics), a yearlong achievement program that encourages high academic and cultural achievement among African-American high school students. It would be her second time entering the contest.
“Last year I did sciences. This year I want to do oratory and sciences and talk about what I did here,” she said. “I think that would be so cool.”
NIH grant: OD010513