Waipahu Senior Tackles Cancer Research

Maria Andrea Jurado

Maria Andrea Jurado

Maria Andrea Jurado, a senior at Waipahu High School, spent summer 2014 interning at the UH Cancer Center (UHCC)—a dynamic environment where researchers are trying to find medical solutions to the prevention and treatment as well as cures for cancer. Andrea’s laboratory work involved the synthesis of a potential cancer drug. She had to learn several precise lab techniques including liquid chromatography and thin layer chromatography, which are techniques to separate compounds into individual parts for detailed study in cancer research. As Andrea explains it, if this particular drug is successful, it will inhibit the dimerization (chemical reaction that joins two molecular subunits to form a single unit) of the STAT-3 protein that is related to cancer. She credited her project advisor, Dr. Francisco Lopez-Tapia, a medicinal chemist at UHCC, for mentoring her and teaching her essential lab techniques.

To participate in these lab activities Andrea discovered how critical it was to have a solid background in organic chemistry and to understand the structure, properties, and reactions of organic compounds and organic materials. She admitted, “It was difficult to cram a lot of information about organic chemistry into a very short amount of time since I was completing my lab experiences in the summer.” After her internship, Andrea presented her senior project to a panel of researchers affiliated with UHCC.

In addition to her intern experience, Andrea completed a research paper on the federal administration of vaccines, focusing on the constitutionality of federal requirements. In her paper, she discussed the delicate balance between protecting the public’s health against the concerns of citizens who might object to mandatory immunization recommendations. Andrea described the purpose of her paper as educating people about “how important it is for everyone to bestow their trust in the scientific advancements happening in today’s society.” Andrea has been accepted at Columbia University and plans to pursue a dual major in chemical engineering and history.

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