Branching Out with Research

The summer internships that the Cleveland Clinic Office of Civic Education Initiatives offers to high school students last nine weeks – nine weeks of hands-on activities, intensive research, and observation. However, that experience doesn't stop after the nine weeks are through. As the years pass, interns are being offered more and more venues to showcase and share their research with others – from fellow high school students to healthcare professionals.

Publishing and Presenting Research

Every intern is required to complete a research project. A number of them choose to extend their research by submitting it for publication in a peer-reviewed medical journal, presenting it at a medical conference, or entering it in a science fair. Over the past five years, 22 interns have presented at medical conferences or been published, and 28 have participated in the Northeast Ohio Science & Engineering Fair.

The opportunity to publish research as a high school student is very rare, and the students who have done so – or are hoping to do so – recognize the great honor involved. "The thought of having published research as a high school student is mind-boggling," says Nursing Intern Elissa Wolf. "I remember thinking, What kind of high school student has published research? I wrote it off as something I could never do. Now I've had the opportunity to do what I thought would never happen."

In many cases, interns' research has been further studied and considered for its ramifications in the clinical setting. By making their findings known through publication and conference presentation, students open themselves to the possibility of having their research become relevant in today's medical world.

"I think it is great that our research will become widespread," says Nursing Intern Ciara Delahunty. "To know that what we are doing now might be used to help others is very rewarding. I love knowing that we can make a difference at our age."

The thought of having published research as a high school student is mind-boggling.

Science fairs are another way interns have made their research known. Science Intern Karen Kruzer is at Cleveland Clinic for her second summer, and was extremely successful in the Northeast Ohio Science & Engineering Fair in 2008. Her research study, Identification and Prevention of MRSA Transferred Between Community and Medical Settings on Mobile Phones, won several top prizes and was advanced to the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair in Reno, Nevada, where she won fourth place in Medicine and Health.

The judges were professional scientists and experts in their fields, and they interviewed each candidate as they made their choices. "Best of all, they shared their insights and suggestions, making me ready to run out and extend my investigation," says Kruzer.

During this process, Kruzer interacted with fellow students and researchers from 56 countries, and conversed with Nobel Laureates – all this in addition to having the chance to share her research. "This was an experience that I'll never forget," she says.

2007 Creative Learning Intern Kaleigh Eichel experienced success in presenting scientific research as well. She conducted research on her own and through observations and experiments on animal behavior, taught goldfish to herd their tankmates through a maze. Eichel won top awards at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, and was awarded a trip to the Nobel Prize Ceremony in Sweden. Her success is a clear indication of the versatility of the Creative Learning Program when it comes to educating its students in both creative and scientific matters. "I love both science and art," Eichel says. "I think that both fields require the same creativity that is needed to solve a problem or paint a masterpiece."

The research interns do each summer is groundbreaking and relevant, and as the internship program has grown, students have received more varied ways to reach out with their research. Whether through scientific presentation or creative interpretation, interns are better able, as each year passes, to make their research findings available and accessible to an ever-growing group of people.