James Logan High School student Brian Woo took this photo on one of his first days as an intern for Jill Helms, PhD, a professor in the Department of Surgery at Stanford. To Woo, this image is a reminder that ordinary-looking things can reveal unexpected wonders for those that look for them. This average-looking chemical fume hood, he explained, actually contains several plastic containers of dermestid beetles - a kind of beetle that's commonly used by scientists to clean debris from bones.
Bones are a focus of the Helm's lab. He began working with Helm and her team as part of the Stanford Institutes of Medicine Summer Research Program (SIMR). This eight-week summer program gives high-school students, like Woo and his colleague, Christina Bui, the opportunity to work with mentors in the School of Medicine. In addition to the SIMR internship, Woo also received a grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), an organization that provides grants for stem cell research.
"Always been interested in science," he said. "One of the things I liked about the program is that there are many institutes [that I could work with] to choose from." Woo is working with Helm's lab to learn more about Wnt protein that is made by animals and humans. This protein is important because it may provide a way to treat bone degeneration (osteoarthritis), a disease that affects about 26.9 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2005 estimate.
Helm's lab is in the early stages of testing of this protein, but it shows promise as a possible therapy. This possibility is one of the things Woo enjoys the most about working in the lab:"I really like being able to see experiments being run, and being a part of research that's going to help people in the future."
Woo has yet to decide what kind of project he will pursue next, but says "I definitely see science in my future." He will present the findings of his summer SIMR project at a poster presentation at Stanford on Aug. 8, and as a part of the CIRM grant, he will present at the University of California, San Francisco on Aug. 12.
Holly MacCormick is a writing intern in the medical school’s Office of Communication & Public Affairs. She is a graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology at University of California-Santa Cruz.
Previously: Image of the Week: CIRM intern Christina Bui’s summer project, A look at one high-school student’s summer internship experience at Stanford, New thinking about osteoarthritis, older people’s nemesis and Inflammation, not just wear and tear, spawn osteoarthritis.
Photo by Brian Woo