Abbott Lab researchers hold lecture

By Nancy Lo

Four researchers from Abbott Laboratories addressed a lecture hall filled with high school students and teachers furiously scribbling down notes on protease inhibitors, biologics, and epibatidine interactions with nicotinic receptors. With support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Precollege Grant, organizers in the Biological Sciences Collegiate Division (BSCD) sponsored “Abbott Day” on Saturday as part of their monthly biology lecture series for Chicago Public School (CPS) students and teachers. It included members from the Collegiate Scholars Program (CSP), the Science Teachers Exchange Program, and the BCSD’s Precollege Science Education Initiative (PSEI) program.

Speakers included Abbott Laboratories President and Chief Operating Officer Jeffery Leiden, M.D., Ph.D., John Leonard, M.D, Rita Jain, M.D.; and Jim Sullivan, Ph.D. Leiden, a University alumnus, spoke of the opportunities in the pharmaceutical field and explained how medicines are tested and then put into the market. Leonard, Jain, and Sullivan presented the latest research on HIV/AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis, and neuropathy, respectively.

Norma Lopez, College Admissions Associate Director of Minority Recruitment, said that the CSP and the PSEI programs, “have fostered positive images of the University and they have also increased name recognition among CPS students.  We did have more applications than ever from CPS students—over 300 applications.”

“Our goals for the Saturday Seminars in Biology are to enrich the sense that biology is an experimental science,” Patrick Medina, HHMI Grant Manager, said, “to provide an understanding of current research problems, to provide a college-level experience, and to encourage students to attend college.

Leiden said that the goals of pharmaceutical companies are to discover the next generation of medicines and to foster the next generation of scientists. He pointed out that these outreach programs allow Abbott to provide information on applied sciences and to offer internship opportunities to interested students.

For students such as Steven Kirk, a freshman at Hyde Park High School, these programs are a chance to access college professors and researchers. “I usually ask my biology teacher,” he said. “When I don’t know about something and I want to learn more about it, I can go and get my questions answered.”

That may be why programs such as these are necessary, and as Leiden said, “The time we get hooked on science is in the teens and in the twenties…So it’s important that we provide these opportunities. That’s when you get hooked.”