Kingsland students visiting the Mayo Clinic last Thursday to learn of research and career opportunities in the medical field are, from left, Ellie Bires, Brianna Kvanli, Kelsey Capelle, Tyler Bicknese and Sam Meyer. They are seen here at Saint Marys Hospital.
Kingsland students visiting the Mayo Clinic last Thursday to learn of research and career opportunities in the medical field are, from left, Ellie Bires, Brianna Kvanli, Kelsey Capelle, Tyler Bicknese and Sam Meyer. They are seen here at Saint Marys Hospital.
Several Kingsland High School students visited the Mayo Clinic Thursday to attend a daylong conference called "Celebration of Research" for students across the region interested in learning about careers in science.

Kingsland teacher Angie Worley offered the opportunity to her advanced biology students who are considering a career or future in the medical field. Each school in the area was allowed to bring a maximum of six students. Mayo Clinic Research, Mayo Graduate School and Mayo Clinic Human Resources were hosts for approximately 200 area high school students.

The conference included speeches by Mayo scientists as well as observational and hands-on tours of research laboratories for students and science teachers.

"We have such a great resource in the Mayo Clinic and I knew they would have a wealth of information and answers for the students interested in any aspect of medicine, and in this case, research," said Worley. "I felt it would give the students an opportunity to see some of the different avenues for career choices."

Members of the group agreed that one of the most interesting parts of the conference was biomedical imaging.

"We got to see some of the new technology, like 'cameras' that can see inside the body in a computerized way to look for tumors in the brain and other complications," said Brianna Kvanli. "Now doctors can 'travel' through parts of the body, like the kidney, using computers and other technology."

Worley agreed with her students that the most interesting part of the conference was how far along and advanced the technology is for biomedical imaging, including imaging and interactive visualization, virtual reality and computer graphics. She noted that doctors can use 3D and 4D images to help diagnosis, treat and minimize invasive surgery.

"It was fascinating," she said.

Kelsey Capelle who would like to become a pediatrician or ER doctor, was impressed that there are so many new technologies that allow surgeons to be able to see organs in the body when there isn't a camera inside at all.

However, she enjoyed the whole experience, not just the intricate details. "It was cool to walk around the buildings and find out where things are located," she noted.

Tyler Bicknese, who also intends to pursue a career in the medical field, was impressed with a talk by Dr. James Levine about non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), which deals with how active a person is throughout the day and how different activities can burn calories.

Levine's research focuses on new treatments for obesity. He has received national attention for his research, particularly the NEAT concept. NEAT is associated with burning calories not by exercise, but during regular, daily activities. Levine has taken his research a step further by designing what he describes as the office of the future, a computer desk stationed at a treadmill, instead of the typical desk and chair.

Levine was the featured person in this year's conference, which had a theme of "Research in Motion." Mayo sponsored the first "Celebration of Research" in 1987 as a means to introduce high school students to different fields of study in medical science research.

Background on the conference provided by Mayo Clinic noted that medical research is a dynamic, ever-changing field - an alluring factor for many who choose careers in medical science. Scientists dedicate their lives to pursuing the discovery of the causes of disease, new treatments, cures and prevention. High school students who attended the "Celebration of Research" were exposed to careers as physicians, researchers, health care workers, research lab technicians and other jobs in medical research.

Some students who attend the event are interested in pursuing careers in science, while others, such as Kvanli come mainly because of curiosity.

"I don't know what I want to do in the future yet, so I went to this clinic to see if it would spark any interest for me in this field," she said.

Mayo noted that some previous "Celebration of Research" attendees went on to study science in college, a positive outcome in an era when fewer U.S. high school and college students are choosing careers in science and engineering, compared to other nations.

According to "America's Pressing Challenge - Building a Stronger Foundation," a 2006 report of the National Science Board:

"If the U.S. is to maintain its economic leadership and compete in the new global economy, the nation must prepare today's K-12 students better to be tomorrow's productive workers and citizens. Changing workforce requirements means that new workers will need ever more sophisticated skills in science, mathematics, engineering and technology. Scientific and engineering occupations are expected to continue to grow more rapidly than occupations in general, with a projected 70 percent greater increase by 2012 (26 percent versus 15 percent overall), or 1.25 million additional science and engineering jobs. Long-term the growth in science and engineering occupations has far exceeded that of the general workforce - with more than four times the annual growth rate of all occupations since 1980."

The conference definitely sparked an interest in science for the Kingsland students taking part.

"It was a great learning experience," concluded Bicknese.