Student Scientists Meet Nobelist Harold Varmus at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine
Just hours before the world learned that skin cells could be re-programmed to behave as if they were stem cells, nearly 600 junior and senior high school students gathered at Mount Sinai School of Medicine to hear three dyad finalists in a “Novel Ideas in Biomedical Science” Essay Contest compete for 1st, 2nd, 3rd Place cash prizes.
Guests of honor were two eminent scientists—Harold E. Varmus, MD, Nobel Laureate, President of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and Ihor Lemischka, PhD, Director of The Black Family Cell Institute and Lillian & Henry M. Stratton Professor, Department of Gene and Cell Medicine at Princeton University—discussing their life and its meandering pathway to their becoming scientists. The two sat side by side at center stage of the 600-capacity Stern Auditorium, taking turns talking about being children of immigrant parents, being born and growing up in New York City, attending public schools. The conversation was as fascinating as it was riveting and revealing. Neither of these renowned scientists, though children of physicians, started out thinking of themselves as scientists. Dr. Varmus majored in English literature. Both had other interests: Varmus in sports, Lemischka in music (Lemischka loved The Grateful Dead). Science was something that each discovered in himself along the way during but mostly after graduating college.
The intent of the Conference was to initiate a conversation around biomedical science issues to “humanize” scientists to our youth, and for scientists to appreciate the scientist “residing” in the youth of today. Above all perhaps, the Conference was meant to awaken interest in, and energize those already headed towards careers in biomedical science and medicine.
The premise for the event was an invitation to public schools (Middle and High School) to enter Mount Sinai’s “Novel Ideas in Biomedical Science” Essay Contest. Students were asked to tell scientists and/or physicians in 1,500 words or less what problem they see as most important, and to share with the scientists a novel approach toward addressing that problem. All entries had to be submitted as dyads (students working in two’s): what Center for Excellence in Youth Education (CEYE) Director Lloyd Sherman believes is the most powerful learning unit.
The three dyad winners were: Joselyn Lantigua and Charlotte Alvarez from the High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering: Over-Consumption of Resources (First Place); David Huang and Omar Ahmad from Stuyvesant High School: Applying Gene Therapy to Cure Late-Stage Hepatocellular Carcinoma (Second Place); and Cathy Le and Rossana An from Bayside High School: Alzheimer’s Disease: The Effects of Amyloid Plaques together with Neurofibrillary Tangles on Nerve Cells (Third Place)..
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