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Fairfield U. Sophomore Takes Part In St. Jude's Research Program

Elizabeth Szabo
Elizabeth Szabo Photo Credit: Contributed

FAIRFIELD, Conn. -- Fairfield University sophomore Elizabeth Szabo, of Bridgeport, was accepted into the very competitive Pediatric Oncology Education Program (POE) at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, one of the premier hospitals in the country treating children with cancer.

This summer, the 19-year-old biology major is spending 11 weeks in Memphis in the St. Jude research lab of Richard J. Webby, a world leader in the ecology of influenza in animals and birds. He directs the only World Health Organization (WHO) collaborating center focused on the transmission of animal flu viruses to humans.

Szabo will receive a full stipend for the position, which will bring her another step closer to her dream of becoming a pediatric oncologist. Fifty-six students from 44 schools in 23 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia, are participating in POE 2015. Szabo will be studying influenza viruses.

“I have always been interested in the sciences,” said Szabo, known on campus as Liz. “I always felt like everything I've ever learned in my science classes were applicable to every day life, and that's what I love most about it.”

Funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH)/ National Cancer Institute, the POE program ( stjude.org/poe ) at St. Jude offers a unique opportunity for students preparing for careers in the biomedical sciences, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, psychology, or public health to gain biomedical and oncology research experience.

She cut her teeth in a science laboratory in the Bannow Science Center while still just a student at Harding High School in Bridgeport (she graduated as the school’s valedictorian). At the time, she was taking part in Fairfield University’s BASE (Broadening Access to Science Education) Camp, a two-week, residential summer camp for high school women interested in scientific research that is shepherded by Fairfield female faculty members in STEM disciplines.

As a BASE Camper, Szabo worked on a project with Anita Fernandez, associate professor of biology, focusing on mutations in nematodes.

“My favorite part about BASE Camp was that I got to interact with college students and professors in a way that I normally wouldn't be able to,” she said. In a great full circle moment, Szabo returned to BASE Camp in summer of 2014 to be a student mentor.

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