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Medicine and Science seminar gets students considering possibilities

Educational prospects come under the microscope for youth across the state

By Cynthia Pasquale

Medicine and Science seminar gets students considering possibilities
John Freed, M.D., a professor and dean of the Graduate School at the Anschutz Medical Campus, talks with students and educators from high schools around the region at Tuesday's Colorado-Wyoming Junior Academy of Science. Freed coordinated the day of lectures by School of Medicine professors.
A junior at Kiowa High School, Mikala Daughenbaugh loves science and medicine. She's not sure what career path she might take, but she's thought about pediatrics or children's psychology. Perhaps she'll major in biology. Or maybe not.

Such uncertainty is common among high school students, and that's a good thing.

"If you don't know where you're going or what you're doing, take heart," Victor Spitzer told a group of about 400 scientific-minded high schoolers at the Colorado-Wyoming Junior Academy of Science (C-WJAS) "Medicine and Science 2010" annual seminar at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

Spitzer, a professor in the department of cell and developmental biology at the School of Medicine, specializes in human anatomy, and is known for his participation in the Visual Human Project, which photographically documented human cadavers. Thousands of tiny slides of the bodies were made, allowing scientists and students to study every aspect of the body using virtual reality.

But as a student, he said, he remained open to a variety of opportunities and, even now, should he have a chance to learn about something he knew little about, he would embrace it.

The Tuesday, Nov. 9 seminar connected more than 400 students from around the state to some of the best scientific minds and some of the finest research in the nation. It offered students a tiny glimpse of the prospects available to them.

"The seminar is an experience of seeing high-level science being pursued," said Brooke Jacobson, a math teacher at William Smith High School in Aurora. About 60 students from Aurora Public Schools attended.

John Freed, M.D., a professor and dean of the Graduate School at AMC, coordinated the day's lectures by School of Medicine professors. "The point is to try to get students turned on to sciences," he said.

Lectures included "The Smoking Gun in Schizophrenia" by Robert Freedman, professor in the department of psychiatry; "The Balancing Act Between Virus and Host" by Linda van Dyk, an associate professor in the department of microbiology and immunology; "Taking Aim at New Cancer Targets" by Doug Graham, associate professor in the departments of pediatrics and immunology; and "Is Smoking Really Bad for You?" by Robert Winn, associate professor in the division of pulmonary sciences, department of medicine.

This is the 23rd year the seminar has been held.

Dan VanGorp, a director of C-WJAS and science coordinator emeritus with Cherry Creek Schools, has been with the program since 1964. Along with seminars, the academy offers scholarships, field trips and the opportunity for students to compete nationally and internationally in science fairs and to present papers on scientific topics.

He encouraged students to pursue their passions in the sciences: "We need you all to work in areas that will help mankind."

Tawney Bleak, a student at Otis High School, traveled this summer to Seoul, Korea, as part of a C-WJAS program, and studied with students from 14 other countries. While she participated in intense lab work and attended lectures, she also witnessed cultural events.

"Probably the best part of this camp was that I gained lifetime friends from around the world," she said.

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