18:00 PM

Stimulus supports student, teacher research experiences at Ohio State

Federal stimulus dollars are fueling 15 research projects at Ohio State University this summer, funding the employment of local students and teachers in biomedical labs on campus.

Under a program designed to provide jobs and expose students to health-sciences research career options, funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is supporting the laboratory work of five central Ohio science teachers and 49 students – 23 in high school and 26 in college.

They are joining forces with Ohio State health sciences researchers to pursue discoveries intended to help clinicians prevent, diagnose and treat such conditions as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

"This program is a clear win-win for everyone involved, and shows how university research contributes to the health of the economy," said Clay Marsh, senior associate vice president for research in Ohio State's Office of Health Sciences and vice dean for research in the College of Medicine.

"The funding allows us to extend an important educational opportunity to the community, provides income to the participants and accelerates the pace of the research we're doing," he said.

Marsh is also a specialist in pulmonary medicine. His research lab is hosting a Worthington high school student who is assisting in the study of monocytes, white blood cells implicated in the development of pulmonary fibrosis, a debilitating lung disease.

The summer stimulus program is supporting research experiences for more than 3,000 students and teachers across the United States, including 150 in Ohio, according to preliminary information released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Ohio State is hosting the most participants among the 15 institutions across the state taking part in the federal program.

The stimulus funding supplements existing National Institutes of Health grants. Under the program, investigators already funded by the NIH were able to apply for administrative supplements to support summer students and science educators. A total of $21 million has been allocated for the two-year program.

According to the NIH, the program is designed to promote job creation and economic development, advance research activities, encourage students to pursue research careers in health-related sciences and give science teachers valuable research experience.

Traci Wilgus, an assistant professor of pathology, said the summer experience will help the Ohio State undergraduate in her lab make more informed decisions about her post-graduate plans.

"The opportunity to work in the lab will be a good experience for her whether she chooses medical school or graduate school," said Wilgus, who is studying a protein involved in the development of skin cancer. "For me, having an extra set of hands should help move the research project forward at a quicker pace."

More information about the program is available online at http://www.nih.gov/news/health/mar2009/od-24.htm