High School Junior Conducts Award-winning Research at LIU Post Lab
Rita Langdon,Associate Provost for Communications, Public Relations & Marketing
Long Island University, LIU Post
Brookville, N. Y. - Sixteen-year-old Anum Mitha is the latest in a long list of high school students to achieve special recognition working in the laboratory of Biomedical Sciences Professor Luis R. Martinez at Long Island University/LIU Post in Brookville, New York.
In March 2013 Mitha, a junior at the Wheatley School in Old Westbury, won first place competing against more than 115 projects in the Long Island Science and Engineering Junior Varsity Fair.
Her project, titled "Methamphetamine alters adaptive immune responses after exposure to T cell dependent or independent antigens," examined whether the use of methamphetamine depresses responses of specific cells of the immune system in humans.
“Ever since I was four I wanted to be a doctor, and started research in 9th grade,” says Mitha. “But high school labs lacked the potential for me to do the research I was looking to do. So I contacted Dr. Martinez, and went in for an interview.”
“Anum came to us because she wanted to work on the metamphetamine project we are doing in our lab,” said Dr. Martinez, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Sciences at LIU Post’s School of Health Professions and Nursing. “What we do is examine how drug abuse impairs the immune system. I gave her a project to examine the effect of this drug on T cells which are important cells of the immune system.”
In Dr. Martinez’s lab, the 16-year-old went from shadowing a graduate student to actually using the techniques practiced in the laboratory. Soon Mitha was working 6-8 hours daily in the summer, and then in the fall 4-6 hours each day on the weekends.
“She had to learn multiple techniques, including handling animals, ELISA analysis, and histopathological analysis, to check tissues appearance after exposition to allergens,” said Dr. Martinez. “I was very impressed -- for her age, she quickly assimilated information that even my grad students aren’t always able to grasp.”
Undergraduate and graduate students working in Dr. Martinez’s lab have earned a number of notable awards in recent years. But this is the first time a high school student has done so -- and the first time one has even worked in the lab. “I’ve trained everyone from high school to medical students,” said Dr. Martinez. “The only difference is the level of their specific knowledge and experience. If you have a very motivated high school student, like Anum, you can get a lot from them. Her goal is to become a medical doctor. She has all the qualities and this award will improve her chances.”
According to Dr. Martinez, Mitha’s accomplishment is an example of the impact his program at LIU Post is having in the community. I provide outreach to the region’s high school science teachers, training them in how they can develop a research program of their own, and how to mentor high school students,” he said. “And LIU is right here in the community, so I think that working with us is a good choice for interested students like Anum. The potential is there to work with other high school students in the future. I’ll give them the opportunity if I have the resources.”
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