Nick Elroy expected busy work.
But when Elroy arrived at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation in Oklahoma City to participate in the Fleming Scholar Program, he found otherwise.
Elroy has spent the past few weeks studying alongside OMRF scientists, looking at whether eating red meat promotes the development of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.
“So many people end up with cardiovascular disease or know someone who has it,” he said. “It makes my research really relevant and helpful, and that's one of the reasons I enjoy doing this as much as I do.”
OMRF was founded in 1946 and is one of the oldest nonprofit biomedical research institutes in the country.
Elroy is one of 10 Oklahoma students who are participating in OMRF's Fleming Scholar Program. The program started in 1956 and is named for Sir Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin and came to visit OMRF to dedicate the organization's first building.
Elroy grew up in Marlow, a town of about 5,000 people that sits about 70 miles southwest of Oklahoma City.
He said he has always loved science. While in high school, Elroy started taking more advanced science classes at the Biomedical Science Academy at Red River Technology Center in Duncan.
“Going to the (Biomedical Science Academy) opened my eyes to what a more demanding class could be,” he said.
Elroy, a sophomore at Oklahoma State University, is the first person in his family to go to college. Ever since he can remember, he said, his parents have encouraged him to go to college.
The program at OMRF has offered him an opportunity to better understand what he wants to do once he graduates. After finishing a four-year animal science degree, Elroy might attend veterinary school. He is interested in becoming a veterinarian but also continuing a career in research, he said.
As a Fleming scholar, Elroy will write a paper at the end of July about his research. In the past, some Fleming scholars have seen their work published in prominent scientific journals.
“I understand that my research here is definitely not going to cure atherosclerosis by any means, but I hope that what I'm doing here will at least help,” he said.