Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Science Prodigy

"I met with him and I was blown away with his ideas."
"Immunology is not an easy subject... But he handles the complex and understands it at the higher level, the big picture, but also the minutiae of detail that's required at the cellular level And he's able to connect different disciplines together."
Angela Crawley, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute

"A lot of this is based on research that I've done outside school. Just reading the journals and collaborating with scientists was something I developed in an interest for in my spare time."
"I had these ideas, and to test them out I knew I would need a mentor and knew I would definitely need help. I emailed pretty much as many professors as I could find."
"They're [scientists at the HIV lab of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute] still supervising me and still helping me out a lot, but they're definitely giving me a bit more independence and (showing) more confidence that I won't blow up the lab."
"I'm in an interesting situation where I'm kind of collaborating with multiple labs."
"The biggest thing that motivates me in science is the feeling of coming up with new ideas and testing them out."
Aditya Mohan, 18, Grade 12 student, Colonel By Secondary School, Ottawa
Aditya Mohan, 18, poses with a computer showing a graphic from his nationally-recognized science project that studies viruses that kill cancer cells. Mohan won a national science competition.   Darren Brown / Ottawa Citizen
Exactly how bright and talented at the age of 16? Well, even when Aditya Mohan was in elementary school he was fascinated with medical science. Reading medical literature whose content would confuse most adults, let alone a teen. But read them he did, journals like Nature, Cell, and PLOS One. His interest focused on cancer and on immunology.

So he began a letter-writing campaign addressed to medical researchers, enquiring about the feasibility of his helping out in their laboratory work on HIV and cancer research. Audacious and far-reaching, you bet. All the recipients of his enquiries failed to respond positively. And then, a researcher with HIV was intrigued enough to haul him into her lab.

Now 18 and getting set to graduate from high school Aditya has won the Sanofi Biogenius Canada competition. It's a nationwide biotechnology competition aimed at high school students. And if the goal is to search out promising future scientists they found one in Aditya Mohan. He re-engineered an existing virus by enabling the common cold virus to become a targeting messenger to search out cancer cells.
Video thumbnail for Curing cancer with the common cold?
Cure for cancer via the common cold virus?

The idea is a new approach to fighting cancer cells. Such a virus is envisioned as an agent that would dispatch all the cells in a tumour, leaving healthy cells untouched. "It seems to be very promising", said the young man. Several laboratories at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute are working on cancer-killing viruses and, said Professor Crawley, Aditya is able to make a comfortable fit with them.

When he first arrived at the lab two years earlier he was exposed to basics such as how to use reagents, how to use pipettes, to begin with. But he took to the processes with huge enthusiasm, spending three to six hours after regular school hours several times weekly. Aditya aspires toward a combined medical degree and a doctorate to enable him to treat patients while also performing related research.

He isn't yet certain where he will begin his academic post-secondary education, considering universities both in Canada and the United States. He's just been in the United States on a trip, the country where he was  born, though he was raised in Canada. He had been in Pittsburgh to attend another competition, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

And from that venue he brought back with him a $3,000 award. That and the Sanofi win for which he received $5,000 and the opportunity for an internship at Canada's premier research establishment, the National Research Council, represent a broad-based acknowledgement that this energetic, bright and ambitious young fellow will go far in medical science, in the future.

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