As part of the Medical School, the Departments of Dermatology and Immunology explore new mechanisms and pathways of the immune system to enrich human health by combating and preventing disease, enhancing vaccination, and controlling autoimmunity. These departments have a mission of training students, post doctoral fellows, physicians and other young scientists to be proficient in immunology. This includes high school students like Cierra Saunders, from City Charter High School.
According to Walter J. Storkus, PhD, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Dept. of Dermatology, Immunology, Pathology and Bioengineering/UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Member, “In our lab, we train at every level. So there are high school students, undergrads, post-baccalaureate, medical students, MSTP (Medical Scientist Training Program), post-doctoral fellows and even junior faculty. We have trained more than 50 students over the last 15 years. Every experience is different, but always rewarding.”
City High has had a relationship with the Department of Dermatology for the past 3 years, providing suitable candidates for internships at the research labs. Cierra Saunders is the most recent City High student to go through the 13-week program. She proved herself to be “workplace mature” and highly skilled. Cierra’s mentor who worked very closely with her, Dr. Jennifer Taylor, PhD observes, “She saw something demonstrated, could do it almost immediately and was then able to also teach it immediately. So she is very accelerated in terms of her makeup.”
According to Patti Kretschman, one of Cierra’s City High internship managers, “Many high schools are realizing the importance of experiential learning, married to the theory of practice. Many businesses are realizing the importance of stepping down from college to high school and middle school, to start to educate and excite.”
Dr. Storkus agrees, “We want interns to become proficient in certain techniques because these are going to be the building blocks to help them to accomplish the goals of their studies, and if they can do it reproducibly and cleanly… to become able to work on their own as stand-alone scientists. And at the end of the experience, if you can get to the point of actually applying that to a study…. That’s a win!”
To learn more about Dr. Storkus and the Department of Immunology, click here: http://dermatology.pitt.edu/people/walter-j-storkus-phd
To learn more about Dr. Taylor and her work, click here: http://dermatology.pitt.edu/people/jennifer-taylor-phd