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Summer of science


Sequim High School juniors Lucas Shores and Rachel Hughes are attending a summer biomedical program at the University of Pennsylvania in July. Sequim Gazette photo by Michael Dashiell

Cardiovascular disease. Oncology. Immunology. Neuroscience.

Sounds like a party, huh?

For these two Sequim High School juniors, there’s no better way to spend a summer.

Lucas Shores and Rachel Hughes are two of about 300 students from across the nation to take part in the University of Pennsylvania’s Summer Discovery Program for High School Students, Biomedical Research Academy, in Philadelphia in July.

For four weeks, students are immersed in some of the most cutting-edge areas of biomedical research and guided by university scientists, faculty and top field experts. 

For Shores, this was a kind of dream come true.

“Biomedical engineering has been what I want to do for a while,” he says.

Shores says he considered studying to be a doctor.

“(But) doctors can only help so many people at a time,” he says. “As a bioengineer, I can do research that will impact millions.”

Tissue engineering, Shores points out, is one example of how bioengineers can change the world. From a simple tissue culture, scientists can grow organs for transplants.

Hughes says she’s wanted to be a doctor for a long time, fueled in part by science classes in middle school.

“I’m not someone who’s grossed out by blood and guts,” she says.

Help along the way
Penn’s summer program isn’t an easy one to get into, Shores says, noting that the application process is open to any student across the world and that about half of the 600 applications were accepted this year.

Both Sequim students were accepted, but Shores found he was short of the $6,750 tuition fee — until he received a University of Pennsylvania scholarship for partial tuition and a special grant through the Sequim Education Foundation.

Shores says career counselor Mitzi Sanders and education foundation board members Al Friess were big contributors to making the tuition assistance happen.

(After helping Shores with tuition, the Sequim Education Foundation is establishing a fund to aid undergraduates for education opportunities like this).

The university summer program, set for July 5-31, includes morning lectures providing a foundation in molecular biology and genetics, offering in-depth views into the research programs and therapeutic approaches of biomedicine.

Most afternoons are spent in Penn’s biology labs, where students get first-hand lessons of experimental techniques and tools employed by biomedical researchers. 

“Working along with biomedical engineers — that was the draw for me,” Shores says.

Students also work with Penn researchers on specific topics in biomedical research, exploring both the scientific and medical aspects of diseases.

The program includes plenty of homework, Hughes says.

“It’s different from school, where you have to do a lot of work with things that aren’t necessarily pertinent to you what you’re interested in.”

The experience is a boost for college applications, Hughes says, since it will show both of them are serious about their science studies.

Shores says he dreams of attending Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, considered by many the top school for biomedical studies in the nation.

“This will definitely be the highlight of my summer,” Shores says.
Adds Hughes, “We’re super excited.”

Reach Michael Dashiell at miked@sequimgazette.com.

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