OKLAHOMA CITY -- Three Norman students are completing eight weeks of research as Sir Alexander Fleming Scholars at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation in Oklahoma City.

Norman North graduates Tanvi Saran, William Wang and Kate Wheeler are currently involved in the competitive program.

Fleming Scholars work with senior scientists on in-depth, individual research projects. At the end of the summer, the students write scientific papers and present research results in formal seminars for OMRF's scientific staff.

Since 1956, the program has provided in-state high school and college students a one-of-a-kind opportunity to get hands-on experience in a research environment.

Saran said she has always dreamed of becoming a pediatric oncologist, and she couldn't pass up the opportunity to do medical research. A biology major at the University of North Carolina, Saran is studying how a brain cancer treatment reduces tumor size in mice.

"It was the ideal chance to get a behind-the-scenes look at how cancer treatments are developed from the research side," she said. "I'm also learning invaluable lab skills that a textbook just can't teach you. It's a great feeling to be a part of research that may end up having real-world application."

Wang, a Norman native and graduate of the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics, will be a freshman at Stanford University this fall and also was drawn to the opportunity to get hands-on research experience.

"Getting to do real research? That's hard to beat," he said.

In the lab, Wang is investigating genes responsible for regeneration in worms, called planarians.

Wheeler, who will be a freshman at the University of Oklahoma, has had her sights set on the Fleming program for several years.

"I met OMRF's Dr. Courtney Griffin when I was starting high school, and I knew after talking with her that I wanted to do research," Wheeler said. "Now, I actually get to work for Dr. Griffin, and she's giving me the opportunity to live out my dream in real life."

Wheeler is working on identifying how two specific proteins interact and how it affects cell receptors.

Other projects covered a wide range of areas from autoimmune disease to cancer, osteoarthritis, cell biology, heart disease and addiction.

OMRF's Fleming Scholar Program has served as a launching pad for hundreds of Oklahoma students seeking science-based careers.

For more information, visit omrf.org/fleming.

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