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Helios Scholars Prepare for 2016 Symposium

From virtual reality to video production to bench-to-bedside medicine, the 10th class of Helios Scholars at TGen readies for the culmination of their summer internship.

The 10th class of Helios Scholars at TGen wraps up next Friday, July 29, with our annual Intern Symposium. Since June, our 44 students have been hard at work in the labs and at their computers, delving into projects ranging from virtual reality to patient education to small-cell lung cancer.

"The main thing that has inspired me here is the near-and-present application of the research," explained Brandon Dorr, an Arizona State University junior, who is researching treatment options for small-cell lung cancer under mentor, Dr. Timothy Whitsett.

Small-cell lung cancer typically has a 5-year survival rate between 5 and 10 percent, so the standard of care is not effective. Brandon's work has focused new potential therapeutic avenues for the disease.

"Oftentimes in other labs where I've worked, the research application is down the road and conceptual," said Brandon, pictured above with research associate Vashti Carson. "At TGen, the bench-to-bedside approach is really crucial."

At TGen's Center for Rare Childhood Disorders, Payton Cadien, a junior at Creighton University, and Carmel McCullough, a sophomore at University of Southern California, have produced a series of videos to help patients and families understand how genetic disorders are inherited and how TGen uses genomic sequencing technology to find a diagnosis and identify possible treatments for rare diseases.

"As someone who has a sibling with a genetic disorder, I feel that I am particularly lucky to have been given the opportunity to help families that are going through the same situation as my family," Payton said. "I know how hard it is to be given information that makes no sense and I want these videos to be a tool that can make it just a bit less intimidating."

You can watch the Modes of Inheritance videos and Whole-Exome Sequencing video, and take a short survey to measure the effectiveness of each.

In Dr. Jonathan Keats' Lab, Jose Plascencia and Sam Rawal are writing software for the Oculus Rift Virtual-Reality Headset to explore genomic data, allowing researchers a 3-D view of the traditional two-dimensional circos plot. Watch a video demo here.

The eight-week, full-time Helios Scholars internship is TGen's flagship educational program, offering students hands-on learning under the mentorship of TGen faculty and staff. The students will present their work though posters and oral presentations at the Symposium.


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