Headed into Med
Siblings Julia and Sword Cambron of
Jonesport, Maine, want to spend their lives helping people. To do that,
the University of Maine bio-chemistry majors with minors in chemistry
plan to enroll in a medical scientist program next year to earn both
M.D.s and Ph.D.s. Sword wants to pursue a career in neuroscience; Julia
a career studying and treating genetically based disorders.
"I've been interested in medicine since first grade," says Julia, 19.
"One of the main reasons I'm interested in the field is we had a family
friend die of a rare bone cancer."
Julia and Sword took a semester of college courses at the University of
Maine at Machias before transferring to UMaine in 2001. Because they
take the same classes, Julia and Sword study together and "fill in each
other's weak points." Each has a 4.0 GPA.
"You have to have curiosity to survive the curriculum of a science
major," says Sword. "The more I've studied, the more interested in
science I've become. Studying the basic sciences, you start to see the
applications to medicine and the importance of getting the adequate
foundation on which to build a knowledge base for medicine."
According to Julia, "you have to love what you're doing," especially
when the semesters of pre-med students get "insanely busy."
"A lot has to do with being home schooled," she says. "We never get
tired of learning."
For the past two years, the pair has been involved in organometallic
chemistry research led by UMaine chemists Alice and Mitchell Bruce, who
study the basic mechanisms, properties, synthesis and medicinal
applications of gold(l) complexes, which include auranofin, a drug used
to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
They believe this research will lead to a greater understanding of the
action of gold-based drugs in biological systems. In the research
laboratory, Julia and Sword also work with Ph.D. students.
The siblings took their MCATs (Medical College Admission Tests) last
year and are now applying to medical schools. Ideally, they say, they
would like to attend the same university in New England for their
graduate work. But their plans don't stop there.
"The ultimate goal for me is to open my own facility and clinic focusing
on collaborative research and the application of new treatments for
diseases," says Julia.
Sword, who has 14 years of study ahead of him following graduation from
UMaine this May, also hopes to establish a research clinic, first in
this country and later in a third world nation.
As a science teacher in training,
Jessica Odell asks lots of questions. "If we're going to be teaching
science, shouldn't we know what it's like to do it ourselves? When an
experiment (in the classroom) doesn't work, what do you do? How do you
look at things from a different perspective?"
Odell is at the crest of a new wave in science education, part of the
first group of graduate students in the University of Maine's Master of
Science in Teaching (MST) program.
The opportunity to develop a broad range of science education skills
attracted her to the MST. Her coursework touches on many sciences; her
graduate committee includes professors in Earth sciences, chemistry,
physics education and biology.
For her thesis, Odell is surveying UMaine science students on one of the
pillars of scientific knowledge — the conservation of mass and energy.
To determine how well students learn both the concept and its
application, she is testing their knowledge before and after they
complete introductory science courses.
Other researchers have found that students struggle with the
conservation principle even after receiving instruction. The results of
her project will help her and other science teachers to develop
classroom activities that help students grasp the concept more
One of the MST program highlights for Odell was a semester spent doing
research at Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor. Her research with lab
scientists Kevin Flurkey and David Harrison focused on thyroid hormone
deficiency in mice. It turns out, she says, that a lack of the hormone
affects the immune system. In mice without the hormone, the immune
system ages more slowly than it does in mice that have normal thyroid
hormone levels. The health consequences of that are unclear at present.