For senior Fred Lang, spending the summer cooped up in lab at MD Anderson turned out to be a lucrative endeavor.
After his first place finish at the regional level of the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology in November, Lang qualified to advance to nationals where his research on brain tumors led him to win sixth place and a $10,000 scholarship last month.
“I was impressed with the other projects, but I felt confident that I could compete with most of them,” Lang said.
Lang examined how glioblastoma, one of the most prevalent and malignant types of brain tumors, can be destroyed by delivering certain micro-RNA’s into the brain.
Although Lang attended the National Finals at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. for four days, he spent only two hours in the actual competition.
“I spent most of Saturday hanging out with the other contestants, which I thought was fun because these people have a totally different mindset from everybody else I know,” Lang said.
During their free time, Lang and the other contestants participated in a community service project organized by Siemens.
“We went to an elementary school and spoke to the students about why we liked science and what inspired us,” Lang said. “Then someone from Siemens presented cool science experiments to the kids.”
Lang also spent his time getting to know the other contestants.
“The kids were definitely different, but they weren’t your stereotypical idea of someone cooped up in a lab all day,” Lang said. “All of them made it to Nationals because they were able to articulate themselves, so they were definitely relatable, and I ended up keeping in touch with some of them.”
During his time in the competition, Lang presented his project to a panel of 12 judges and then took part in a Q-and-A session.
Each contestant had a judge that was an expert in his or her field, and that specific judge would do most of the talking.
“My judge actually discovered the first micro-RNA, and that is what I used in my project,” Lang said. “It was very intense but also really cool.”
Lang plans to use the experience he gained from the competition to help him with future research.
“I want to get back in the lab as soon as possible because I actually have three projects that I’m trying to find time to work on which I may use to write a paper,” Lang said. “I’ve always wanted to pursue science, and both of my parents are doctors, so that’s something that’s been on my list for awhile.”
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