Sixteen Long Beach Polytechnic High School students enrolled in a CTSI-supported biomedical research course recently showcased their research at a poster session at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

The course provides preparatory instruction in ethics, human subject safety, Institutional Review Board issues. Students meet weekly with their assigned mentors to learn about research protocol in a hands-on environment. The course is designed to encourage young, aspiring scientists to consider careers in medical research.

Typically, 12 to18 science and math students at Long Beach Poly PACE, a magnet program for gifted students, participate each year. They are selected through an application process that includes an essay in which they describe their hopes for the experience and what they are willing to contribute.

Michelle Aberle, director of the PACE program, chooses the students, coordinates with mentors, serves as liaison to the Medical Center and helps students prepare their poster projects.

"The depth of understanding and the rapid learning that takes place in the few months that students devote to the projects is astounding," Aberle said. "Many students report this to be one of the most influential educational experiences of their high school careers."

Since 2000, a total of 116 students have taken in the biomedical research course.

Tijana Temelkovska, a student researcher who participated in the Feb. 26 poster session, said her experience was "fascinating, informative and completely worthwhile." Tijana and her mentor, Magdalena Uhart, MD, evaluated the influence of a polymorphism in the GABAA alpha 2 subunit gene on the body's response to stress, as indicated by the adrenal glands' release of cortisol.

"We found that men with a certain allele had higher cortisol responses to stress than men without it," Tijana said. "Women with this allele showed an opposite response. This information [potentially] can be used to determine why there is a difference in the prevalence of certain health conditions between men and women."

Image caption: (At left) Vincent Chau, a senior from Long Beach Polytechnic High School, discusses his research at a Feb. 26 poster presentation at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. (Right) Other student participants included Nadar Shayegh (at podium) and Tijana Temelkovska (far right).

Image source: UCLA