Mobile lab provides students hands-on experience

A new outreach by the Georgia Cancer Center provides high school students a glimpse into careers in cancer research.

On May 3, the center’s mobile laboratory program stopped at A.R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet School, where students were given the real-world task of identifying DNA for the presence of a mutation associated with a kind of leukemia, according to Rhea-Beth Markowitz, director of the Office of Grant Development.

“We’re bringing a hands-on research experience to these students. We bring the equipment we need because the equipment we use every day in the research lab the schools don’t have. We use portable versions,” she said.

Some of the equipment used by students as part of the Georgia Cancer Center mobile lab program May 3. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News

Yuen-Keng Ng, a senior research scientist, developed the class and leads it, giving the students detailed instructions as they progressed through it. He also asked questions of them.

“Have you ever seen DNA? Not just a picture,” he asked.

A few hands went up and the students answered that they’d seen strawberry DNA.

The goal of the mobile lab, according to Markowitz, is to show students various careers in medicine. When people think of cancer, she said, they often think of the doctors and nurses treating patients, but they don’t always think about the researchers who are making strides for better treatment options.

She added that if some students wanted to stay in the Augusta area, they could attend college at Augusta University for both undergraduate and graduate studies and go onto a career at the university.

Carter Rountree was one of the students participating in the mobile lab class.

 “It’s exciting to see this,” said Rountree, who’d like to pursue a career in anesthesiology.

Sitting at her lab table was Nicholas Middleton who echoed her sentiment.

 “It’s pretty cool,” said Middleton, who plans to be a veterinarian.

Funded through Paceline, which holds an annual bike ride, the mobile lab launched earlier this year and will be taken to schools primarily in Richmond, Columbia and Aiken counties, according to Markowitz.

The lab will go to the Aiken County Career and Technical Center next week, and Markowitz said they plan to have a full slate of classes when school starts again in the fall.

Charmain Z. Brackett is the publisher of Augusta Good News. Reach her at Sign up for the newsletter here.

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