Baltimore teens spent the summer in biophysics labs

When 17-year-old Candice Jennings heads off to college, she will already be an old hand at the research bench. The Baltimore teen, who wants to be an anesthesiologist, has spent two summers working alongside faculty and students in Johns Hopkins laboratories as part of the university's Biophysics Research for Baltimore Teens. "Now I know what to expect when I get to medical school, since I'm working in a lab," she says. "It gives me a general idea of what it's like to work with a group of people, how to deal with different personalities, and how to analyze data."

The BRBT program, in its second year, is a paid summer internship that each year gives four high school students from low-income communities experience in university-level biomedical lab work. "This is not just a summer science camp where we have fun and do little experiments," says Jungsan Sohn, the program's director and an assistant professor in the School of Medicine. "This is something where we try to help with career development. The kind of research they do, it's quite cutting-edge."

The program connects each student with three mentors. Jennings worked in the lab alongside Julie Takacs, a visiting faculty member in the Department of Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry who also teaches at a local high school. They experimented with yeast to learn more about how proteins are put together in order to develop new drugs.

"I think the highlight of the summer was when I went on a trip for a long weekend, and [Jennings] was in the lab, moving along with the experiments while I wasn't here," Takacs says. "She did an experiment that worked perfectly, and her results were one of our key findings for the summer."

Funding for the program came from the Office of the Provost, the School of Medicine Dean's Office, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Thomas C. Jenkins Department of Biophysics and Baltimore City YouthWorks.