Information provided by American Cancer Society.
While most teenagers are spending their summers relaxing with friends in the sun and catching up on much needed sleep, Wilmette resident Eva Mergner, 17, spent her time off conducting cancer research.
As a part of the American Cancer Society’s Summer High School Research Program, Mergner, a junior at Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart, is gaining real life experience in a field she loves and is preparing for a career in the scientific field.
The program, now in its 10th year, gives a diverse group of Illinois high school students the chance to spend eight weeks working with cancer researchers in the state’s leading medical facilities. Of the 300 applicants, only 35 high school juniors were chosen to intern this summer with society-funded researchers and assist in hands-on work.
Created in 2003 by the Society’s Illinois Board of Directors, the major objective of the program is to introduce students to scientific research, specifically cancer research to promote career opportunities and provide a research opportunity for those students would not otherwise have access to working in a lab. This extraordinary experience has encouraged and fostered an interest in research in the program’s past 203 participants with 100 percent of the alumni attending college and 88 percent majoring in science or medicine.
“Many high school students are unaware of what scientific research entails. This program is a great way for students to learn about what happens in a lab and what aspect of science they might want to pursue,” said Elizabeth Jablonski, director of research at the American Cancer Society’s Illinois division.
Mergner is looking forward to applying what she has learned in her science classes to her summer research project. In the following weeks she will study the role of certain proteins in activating Hepatic Stellate Cells. The activation of these cells leads to liver fibrosis, or scarring.
As part of this program, students are assigned individual projects to research four days a week. On the fifth day, the students gather at the Society’s Illinois Division Offices to report on the progress of their research. At the end of the eight weeks, each of the students will write a 10 page scientific paper and present a report of their findings at a recognition dinner.
The 2012 recognition dinner will be held Aug. 17 at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago as a special celebration of the 10th anniversary of the program. Guests will include alumni, students, parents, teachers, donors and board members.
The program has been supported through generous donors that have enabled the program to grow sevenfold since its inception in 2003.
Gifts may be made payable to the American Cancer Society/SHSRP, 225. N. Michigan, Ste. 1200, Chicago, IL.
For over 60 years, the American Cancer Society has provided funding and training of health professionals to study how to prevent, detect and treat all cancer types, furthering the organization’s goal of creating a world with more birthdays.