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Scecina’s Biomedical Science opportunity opens doors for senior

Students in the first year of Biomedical Science  survey the simulated scene after the death of a young woman. Throughout the year, they will use biomedical clues to discern what caused her death. Project Lead the Way's Biomedical Science program engages students "one medical mystery at a time."

By Beth Murphy, Director of Marketing Communications

How many high schoolers spend 40 hours a week in June and July studying cells under a microscope to see if they will turn into cancer? That’s how Scecina’s Natalia McCallister spent her summer vacation, and she was happy for the opportunity to work eight weeks at the Indiana University Simon Cancer Center. 

Natalia’s path to cancer research started in Scecina’s classrooms, specifically in the four-year Project Lead the Way Biomedical Science sequence

Never heard of Project Lead the Way? It’s a national initiative, with several different tracks, that creates an “engaging, hands-on classroom environment and empowers students to develop in-demand knowledge and skills they need to thrive.” 

Scecina’s PLTW track is Biomedical Science, which engages students “one medical mystery at a time.” Scecina’s PLTW sequence also is one of the state's best Career Pathways to prepare students for the rigors of college-level coursework in the health science field, said Josh Orndoff, Scecina college and career counselor. 

Watch Now: Scecina students explain Project Lead the Way: Biomed

Now a senior, Natalia started in Scecina’s PLTW as a freshman from St. Simon Catholic School. In the fall, Natalia, also a Crusader cheerleader, will attend Indiana University, where she plans to study nursing and eventually become an oncology researcher. As an Indiana 21st Century Scholar, she receives full tuition. By her hard work she’s also an IU Groups Scholar, a program that aims to increase college attendance among first-generation, underrepresented students at IU. 

Natalia learned about the Summer Research Program with the IU Simon Cancer Center from the Scecina Guidance Department. Under the direction of Vera Bradley Research Scientist Natascia Marino, Natalia studied breast tissue cells at the cancer center’s Susan G. Komen Tissue Bank. (To get technical, she performed immunostaining of paraffin-embedded tissue sections and learned to use the laser microdissection microsope to perform microdissection of breast epithelium from frozen tissue sections.) 

“My experience with PLTW gave me the opportunity, one, because they saw that I had experience in that, and that helped with my application, and two, because what I learned in bio med and Project Lead the Way can apply to that field,” she said. “And it does apply. Everything I did over the summer, I’m doing now (in Scecina classes).” 

“This program gave Natalia invaluable experience working in a lab and allowed her to network with respected experts in the field,” said Mr. Orndorff, who says Natalia is hard-working and motivated. “We are very proud to have had Natalia as a student here at Scecina and we are looking forward to seeing what she will accomplish in her future.” 

PLTW also trains teachers and offers them resources and support for engaging students in real-world learning. Four teachers instruct Scecina’s PLTW Biomedical Science. Students take the following sequence of classes in their freshman through senior years:

  • Principles of Biomedical Science 
  • Human Body Systems 
  • Medical Interventions 
  • Biomedical Innovations 

The program is hands-on and experiential. For example, in their first year, in the Principles of Biomedical Science class, students discover that a young woman has died. How did she die? Was it an accident? Was it murder or suicide? Throughout the year, students will study the biomedical clues behind this mystery, such as blood splatters and the contents of her stomach. They ultimately will discover the answer to how she died. 

And that class is just the beginning to what could become successful health careers for students like Natalia who choose to work hard and aim high. 

Visit scecina.org/biomedical to learn more about our PLTW program.

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