Name: Alexis Fleming
High School/College: I graduated from Kenston High School in Chagrin Falls, OH, with honors in 2015. Currently, I am a rising sophomore in the Bioengineering program at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Description of project worked on: Investigating the effect of SFRP4 on the Wnt/B-Catenin pathway in ovarian cancer
Name of mentor and years in program: Anil Belur Nagaraj, Summer of 2016
Skills obtained: Learned how to pipette and conduct a western blot. Practiced reading and comprehending scientific articles, presenting research results and working in a team.
Future professional aspirations: I either would like to continue my education into medical school in order to train to be a doctor or would like to work in the biomedical engineering industry developing innovative medical tools.
How did you realize you were interested in research and science?
I always wanted to know how and why things worked and have always been amazed by new ideas and technology. I pursued this passion for science through my high school Science Olympiad team. Research, on the other hand, was not something I have always been interested in. As a key part in scientific breakthroughs, it intrigued me. For this reason, I wanted to work in a lab and see whether I enjoyed it—which is one of the reasons I worked in a lab this summer.
What opportunities for research were you given in high school and university?
In high school, my school did not present any opportunities for research. I found a job at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation that allowed me to conduct my own low-scale research within the CPR department when I was 16. There, I investigated the effects of different types of manikins on the quality of CPR learned during class.
At the University of Washington, there are a wide variety of research labs and it is up to the student to find labs with openings where they can begin working. I intend to start in the Yager Lab working on low-cost diagnostic devices next fall.
When and why did you decide to start the program? What moved you to look for the program?
I was eager to be in Cleveland. As a renowned research institution, Case Western Reserve University is one of the best areas in Cleveland to get involved in research. I heard about The Young Scientist Foundation and Dr. Difeo’s lab through a family friend and was very excited about the opportunity to be a member of a research lab for the first time.
What was the first day like for you?
The first day was pretty hectic. I had to get an ID badge, meet everyone in the lab, and even start learning on my first day! Luckily, everyone in the lab was very approachable so the day was not intimidating.
Can you tell us about your mentor?
The PI of the lab, Analisa Difeo, MD, has been extremely welcoming and friendly. I am thrilled to be a member of her lab. My mentor, Anil, is very good about setting clear goals and has been incredibly helpful.
Describe your most memorable experience with the program.
Lab meetings have been my favorite part of the training experience. At each meeting, I get to hear about the projects that are going on in the lab and learn more about how the whole lab functions as a team.
How was the program different from what you had expected originally?
Before I joined, I assumed that I would just be doing whatever various people in the lab told me. Instead, I had a single mentor, which allowed me to really focus on a one project, truly learning about it and watching it progress throughout the summer.
What has been the best thing about being in the program?
I loved feeling like I was a part of something big. It was amazing to see the kind of work that is going on in the research field and know that the work I do can truly have an impact.
As a student, how did you balance your schedule with the work at the lab?
Since I participated during the summer, I did not have to worry about balancing the lab with school. However, I do work a second job. In order to make sure I had time for both, I would talk with my mentor at the beginning of each week to get a general idea of what I needed to get accomplished. By planning ahead, I always knew which days I needed to come in early.
What should other students look forward to when starting the program?
They should look forward to joining a community of scientists who work together for a common goal. This, in itself, is remarkable.
What inspires you?
I am constantly inspired by and in awe of the new discoveries and technology being made. It seems that there is always something unbelievable in the news and I hope to one day be the one who is making the unbelievable happen.
What are you thankful for?
I am incredibly thankful for the support I have always been given by family and friends and for the incredible opportunities I have had the chance of partaking in.
What are you concentrating on now?
I am focused on doing my best at the University of Washington. I want to excel in my classes while also making a difference and enjoying myself outside of classes. Currently, I do this by taking challenging classes, working for a non-profit organization on campus, participating in an outdoors group, and will be starting work in a research lab.