Abby Castro may look like a high school senior. When she starts speaking; however, it takes no time to see she is intelligent and mature beyond her years. On this day, poised and confident, Abby set up her PowerPoint presentation at Ben Barber Innovation Academy’s library to share with a room full of fellow high schoolers what she experienced as a research intern at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
Throughout high school, Abby has taken a series of health science classes at Ben Barber. She says she feels like she’s been preparing for a career in the medical field her entire life.
“I’ve always kind of known. When I was three, if you’d asked me what I wanted to do, it was be a doctor,” Abby said.
In the spring of 2023, Abby was one of 54 students chosen from nearly 1,000 applicants for UT Southwestern’s STARS summer research program. She spent eight weeks in a lab performing experiments to study the underlying causes of blood cancers like lymphoma.
Her project focused on “probing the mechanisms by which the PNT domain of ETV6 forms oligomers and how it contributes to oncogenesis in ETV6 fusion.”
The five-syllable words and medical terminology roll off Abby’s tongue like she’s ordering drive through food. Abby says she was surprised by how much she enjoyed the research side of the medical field. Through her lab experiments, she gained an appreciation for the work that goes into determining what causes a disease so drug companies can create an effective medication to counter it. It’s pretty high-level stuff, and Abby credits the foundation she received in Mansfield ISD for preparing her well.
“This curriculum in the health sciences is amazing just to be able to gain more knowledge, and my teachers have always been great mentors,” Abby said.
Abby has attended MISD her entire life. She began her experience with project-based learning in sixth grade at the Jerry Knight STEM academy, and she’s continued seeking out science courses at Legacy High School and Ben Barber Innovation Academy. Her goal is to be admitted to Rice University next year for undergraduate studies and to attend UT Southwestern Medical Center for medical school.
And it’s not just about her goals, Abby wants to bring others along with her.
“Seeing kids younger than me that I’ve encouraged and tried to mentor – I’d like to see where they end up,” Abby said.
Part of Abby’s presentation included promoting the same summer program she participated in last year to about 60 of her peers. Following her talk, she and her teachers spoke with those who were interested and supplied them with internet links and paper applications.
To learn more at UT Southwestern Medical Center’s STARS program, visit their website.