Fairfax Co. high schoolers try their hand in medical research

Age is not a barrier for a group of high school students at BASIS Independent McLean in Virginia where senior projects center around lifesaving medical research.

Suman Sanghera is one of several high school students who attend BASIS Independent McLean in Virginia, where senior projects center around lifesaving medical research. (Courtesy Suman Sanghera)

Suman Sanghera is one of those students and is currently working with classmates whose interests include kidney transplants.

“Allocation is very important and so how can we properly decide who gets this very rare commodity,” Sanghera said.

Her work focuses on biases that recipients and donors may face when it comes to race, gender, disability and age. In addition to her independent high school research, she’s also working with a local university on similar projects.

“I’ve always had a fascination with the health care field,” Sanghera said, thinking back on her time at a summer volunteer college program where she worked with patients directly. “Working with those patients face-to-face really ignited a passion for me.”

“If you’re really passionate about something, the opportunities are going to continue to arise. Just take them on as you get them,” added Sanghera, sharing her dream of one day becoming a doctor.

Raleigh White, a senior, is studying cancer research results in both dogs and humans. (Courtesy Raleigh White)

Her classmate, Raleigh White, is also a senior and is working on canine comparative oncology, studying cancer research results in both dogs and humans. Her interest began after she heard about clinical trials using dogs.

“I didn’t really know they did that with dogs because they live such short lives in comparison to humans, so I was interested in learning more about it,” she said.

Her focus is on brain and lymph tumors.

“I specifically think that’s more interesting,” said White, discussing DNA and how tumors can release DNA into the blood, a way to help identify cancer.

She’s been interning at George Mason University’s Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine and says her work has grown past just having an interest and now focuses on her awareness and determination to contribute to the field.

“I’m definitely getting a doctorate in something and then potentially entering the research field,” she said.

Her advice to others hoping to follow their dreams is to keep going.

“You fail as many times as you want but it only takes one chance and that can affect you for the rest of your life,” White said.

Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

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