Thursday, April 26, 2007

Teen experiments in science world

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Bill Ryan⁄The Gazette
Jarrett Remsberg, 18, a Middletown High senior, works daily at the National Cancer Institute of Frederick at Fort Detrick. On Monday, he explained an experiment he is working on as an intern in one of the labs.
Since he was a child working on the family dairy farm in Middletown, Jarrett Remsberg has been passionate about science.

‘‘I have liked science since before I could talk,” Jarrett said this week. ‘‘I like what I do. It’s a lot of work but it’s really fun.”

The Middletown High School senior has spent the last nine months working in Fort Detrick’s structural biophysics lab through an internship program. He also recently took the top prize in Frederick County’s Science and Engineering Fair for his project, ‘‘Synthetic Analogs of Smoothened Intracellular Loop as Potent Inhibitors of Cancer Cell Growth.”

Winning first place out of 150 students secured Jarrett a trip to the International Science and Engineering Fair in Albuquerque, N.M., next month. He will compete against 1,500 students from 47 countries during his second trip to the conference.

In the Fort Detrick lab, Jarrett tests peptides, amino acids and other things not found in the layman’s vocabulary since high school biology and chemistry. He also uses machines to test the smallest increments of compounds that most professionals in the field would only dream of using.

Last summer, Jarrett worked in the lab 40 hours each week. During this school year he works about three hours daily after morning classes at Middletown High.

Jarrett credits the popular television show, ‘‘Bill Nye, The Science Guy,” for sparking his interest in science.

‘‘I really like science and I’m fortunate enough to get into this lab,” Jarrett said. ‘‘I love the work I’m doing now but want to do it on a different level someday.”

Jarrett has earned early acceptance into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he plans to study biological or chemical engineering. He hopes to one day work in the pharmaceutical industry making drugs to help the sick.

At Fort Detrick he is a Werner-Kirsten student intern, a program that is very competitive, according to his advisor, Dr. Nadya Tarasova. Tarasova’s background is in molecular aspects of drug design.

‘‘His passion for science is what I noticed most,” Tarasova said of Jarrett. ‘‘We call him the lab baby because everyone is teaching him things. The things he learns here are graduate-level work.”

The Werner-Kirsten program at the National Cancer Institute of Frederick helps foster development in science for students and has been available at Fort Detrick for about a decade.

Tarasova said about 40 high school juniors are accepted each year, but the number varies based on the number of scientists available to serve as mentors. About 90 students from Frederick and Washington counties apply for the program annually. Jarrett’s older brother, T.J., is an alumnus.

When he starts college in the fall, Jarrett will have a better understanding of the field than his classmates because of the internship program, Tarasova noted.

The 18-year-old expects to graduate from Middletown High in June with a 4.64 grade point average, a 28 on his ACT and 1980 on his SAT.

Once he completes his education and is working in the field, he wants to financially support his family’s dairy farm, located between Middletown and Jefferson.

His parents, Bonnie and Thomas Remsberg, own the farm and Jarrett earns money for college by raising and selling dairy cows.

When he isn’t in gloves, glasses and overcoat researching cancer cells in the lab or milking cows on the farm, Jarrett is an average teen who enjoys a game of pool or hanging out with friends and family.

‘‘He is your typical teenager but what impresses me most about Jarrett is he has accomplished a lot,” Tarasova said. ‘‘He has passion and dedication and has done work that takes others years to understand. What he’s doing is very important for people.”

Jarrett said he is looking forward to prom and graduation. Though the internship ends when he graduates, he has been invited to spend the summer working in the lab before heading to college this fall.

‘‘It’s never boring and it’s fun,” he said. ‘‘The fact that I can make a positive difference in people’s lives helps me accomplish my goals.”