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Northern Wisconsin high schoolers learn with stem cells, UW researchers

July 17, 2012 By Jennifer Sereno

Eighteen top science students from northern Wisconsin high schools have earned the opportunity to hone their laboratory skills and work alongside leading researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Madison at a summer science camp focused on stem cells.

Hosted by the Morgridge Institute for Research, a nonprofit biomedical research institute affiliated with UW–Madison, the four-day summer science camp starts today and will cover a number of hands-on activities. Students will participate in neural and cardiac differentiation labs, attend lectures from top UW–Madison researchers and enjoy some time for fun and relaxation at campus attractions including Union South and the Kohl Center.

Students will work with both human embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells. Human embryonic stem cells are blank-slate, or pluripotent, cells that have the capacity to differentiate into any of the more than 220 cell types in the human body. Induced pluripotent stem cells derived from reprogrammed skin cells show some differences from human embryonic stem cells and also are the focus of much promising research for human health and pharmaceutical development.

Human embryonic stem cells were first isolated on the UW–Madison campus by James Thomson, who also was among the first to create induced pluripotent stem cells. Today, Wisconsin researchers are considered leaders in developing an understanding of these cells as they search for treatments and cures for diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson’s and heart disease. Wisconsin scientists also are pioneering the use of stem cells to help develop better and safer medicines.

Students will use stem cell lines that were established approximately 10 years ago. These cells continue to play a vital role in international research because of their flexibility and well-documented performance characteristics.

The students participating in the camp, held July 16-19, attend schools and educational centers including Cornell High School; Forward Service Corp.; Oconto Falls High School; Oneida Nation High School; and Rhinelander High School. The students earned the honor of attending through their classroom performance and dedication during months of preparatory study.

Students participating in the stem cell camp are:

  • Cornell High School: Travis Anderson; Hannah Ash; Peter Duerst; Ryan Williams; Robert Duerst (teacher);
  • Forward Service Corp.: Tyler Fenner; Joshua Jezeski; Samantha Nighorn; Bobbi Jo Schauer; Sarah Jo Dahlstrom (chaperone);
  • Oconto Falls High School: Olivia Carlton; Justice Graf; Colin Sigmund; JoAnn Miller (teacher);
  • Oneida Nation High School: Delylla Fredenberg; Rachel Ninham; Eveyonna Ortega; Becky Nutt (teacher); and
  • Rhinelander High School: Matt Anderson; Ben Eversman; Sam O’Melia; Tyler Thorsen; Kay Coates (teacher).

The stem cell science camp was designed to provide an enrichment experience in an advanced scientific field while introducing promising students to the variety of academic opportunities on the UW–Madison campus.

“Through the camp, we are able to provide students with an in-depth opportunity to broaden their horizons in science, technology and medicine while highlighting the tremendous career opportunities in these rapidly growing fields,” says Rupa Shevde, a senior scientist and director of outreach experiences for the Morgridge Institute for Research. “The students benefit from learning about the cutting-edge research that is going on while at the same time gaining hands-on experience with stem cells and other critically important research tools. Introducing the students to stem cells allows us to teach a variety of concepts including the genetic aspects of human diseases and important ethical considerations for researchers.”

This summer’s stem cell science camp also will feature lectures and presentations from a number of UW–Madison stem cell researchers, including:

  • Anita Bhattacharyya, senior scientist, Waisman Center;
  • Wendy C. Crone, professor of engineering physics, biomedical engineering and materials science and engineering, and associate dean for graduate education, Graduate School;
  • Kevin Eliceiri, director, Laboratory for Optical and Computational Instrumentation;
  • Tim Kamp, associate professor of medicine and physiology;
  • William Murphy, associate professor of biomedical engineering and orthopedics and rehabilitation, associate director of the Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine Center; and
  • Sean Palecek, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering and biomedical engineering.