Venkata Macha – TRANSCRIPT
During the summer after tenth grade, I started working with a cancer researcher at a local college. My dad knew other high schoolers who were working with research that summer. So naturally as a concerned Indian father, he thought that I should do the same. I learned many basic lab techniques, such as counting cells and handling micropipettes.
I also learned how to use Internet databases to find scholarly articles online. In fact, as a high schooler, I was told to use these databases to write a review paper for my professor. I was looking through these articles, but over time I began getting sidetracked into other interesting topics. I became obsessed with bio-sensors, diagnostics that could detect a variety of substances such as water toxins, tumor cells and pretty much anything. However, after reading all the scholarly work, I wondered why nobody had used bio-sensors to develop a pregnancy-like urine test for diagnosing different types of cancer.
Curious about this large gap in research, I contacted faculty at local colleges about how I could help explore this research problem. I soon realized that most labs in my hometown of Montgomery, Alabama, did not have spots for high school students. Even if they did, they wouldn’t let a high school student research that freely. Having this idea but no resources, I was left disappointed.
But then, I wondered if researchers from other cities would respond if I told them about the idea I had. Sure, I had no personal contacts, but after browsing through tons of articles online, I realized that there were a number of researchers who freely listed their contact information. So very much on a whim, I emailed to dozens of professors a proposal to design a simple bio-sensor urine test for cancer diagnosis. I still remember how dumb I felt immediately afterwards.
In the days and weeks to follow, I suffered the apparent stupidity of my decision, as researchers replied to me in the greatest variety of unfavorable ways. Some said no nicely, some ignored my email. Some offered their own critical replies and some simply didn’t understand that I was a high school student when they asked questions like, “What college do you go to?”