Project takes students out of the classroom

By Diane Clay Published: August 1, 2006
Scientist Stephen Jackson knocked on the apartment doors of 17 students and told them to get ready for something different.

Instead of lessons in pipetting, o-glycans and florescent chemical staining, the summer science scholars were about to get a lesson in salsa dancing.

It was one of many activities, including sailing and watching “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Civic Center, that researchers at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation offered science students this summer to break up the serious work of biomedical research.

The 17 high school and college students were chosen from hundreds of applicants to serve as Sir Alexander Fleming Scholars this summer. The eight-week program ended Friday.

“This has definitely been a good experience for me. I’ve learned that research is a lot more intense than I thought. It’s a lot more than doing experiments,” said Jolie Britt, 19, a graduate of Casady School who attends Oklahoma State University.

The Fleming scholarship program, which started 50 years ago, has trained more than 400 students in various areas of medical research.

Students are paired with working scientists and help in professional labs at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation in Oklahoma City. They spend a dizzying first month getting rapid, intense tutorials about professional-level projects before separating to begin lab work.

Erich Spaeth, who graduated from Harrah High School in May, worked this summer to identify B cells related to leukemia and cancer.

This day, Spaeth was working with another student to complete 460 minipreps with bullet tubes, centrifuges and a large vortexer.

Spaeth, who also is a talented percussionist, applied for a Fleming scholarship after Harrah science teacher Elizabeth Smith, whose class he “loved,” recommended he give it a shot. He hoped to narrow his career options in science by working in a lab. has disabled the comments for this article.

For more information on the Sir Alexander Fleming Scholarship program at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, go online to and click on "education" or call 271-8537 or (800) 522-0211.

2006 Fleming Scholars

Kelly Anderson

Tulsa Union High School

Jolie Britt

Edmond, Oklahoma State University

Thelben Burrell

Northwest Classen High School

Stephanie Easter

Tulsa, University of Oklahoma

Kristen Fenska

Miami (OK) High School

Geraint Harris

Burns Flat, Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics

Amber Kuzmic

Oklahoma City, OU

Rufei Lu

Edmond, OU

Catalina Lupu

Classen School of Advanced Studies

Anna McGeachy

Putnam City North High School

Erin Rapp

Tulsa, OU

Nadia Sebastian

Oklahoma City, Creighton University

Erich Spaeth

Harrah High School

Taryn Tate

Shawnee High School

Zhu Judy Wang

Ponca City, Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics

Aaron Weaver

Miami High School

Yu Jonathan Xia

Edmond, Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics

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