Blurton '24 Reflects on a Summer at St. Andrews, Vanderbilt
This summer Ellery Blurton '24 attended a three-week program in social sciences and humanities at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. She also attended a one-week course in the Biology of Cancer at Vanderbilt University. Below is her reflection:
This summer, I was selected to attend a three-week program through the Summer Academic Experience Courses at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. These courses cover a wide range of subjects as in medicine, sustainable development, and psychology. I was enrolled in the Social Sciences and Humanities course, taught by many qualified professors of the university. We studied international relations, modern languages, cinema studies, poetry, environmental history, social psychology, and social anthropology. Mondays through Fridays we would have our first lecture, beginning at 9:30 a.m. and finishing at 11:30 a.m. before lunch. For lunch we could go into town at any time to eat, socialize, and explore the city of St. Andrews. From 2:00 p.m. until 4:30 p.m., another lecture would occur. I really enjoyed the variety of subjects and classes that were offered as they were balanced out with a good amount of freetime, being more similar to a real college experience.
Most of the work that we did was in-class work during lectures and discussions. For example, at the end of the course, we were all put into groups and assigned a certain topic relating to social anthropology. My group examined the way that music reflects culture. We studied the way that different genres or types of music from different eras can reflect the culture of the society. For example, we studied the origins and significance of jazz in America, the significance of Hildegard von Bingen’s music and how it pertains to the relationship between religion and culture, and the reality that music affects political cultures, as seen in Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son.” The social anthropology lectures were even more inspiring, as I learned what an anthropologist's career could look like and how it is mainly research-based. This course inspired and encouraged me to continue my studies in social anthropology, as I could absolutely see myself pursuing this type of study in the future.
I also attended a one-week summer program at Vanderbilt University through the university’s Summer Academy for rising Grades 11 and 12 students. The course I chose to take was the Biology of Cancer: An Introduction into the Origin and Treatment of Cancer. We researched cancer on a cellular level, and studied how it grows and multiplies, how it spreads across the body, the symptoms that occur, and how it could be treated. In one of Vanderbilt University’s labs, we were able to see scientists and doctors actively working in this field of study. We spoke to those professionals about possibly pursuing careers in medicine.
As we finished the week, we had the opportunity to research a certain type of cancer treatment and present it to the class, with the goal being to persuade the audience that our specific treatment is more effective than other kinds of treatment. Our group was assigned CAR T-cell therapy which is a type of cancer treatment that identifies cancer cells through certain receptors that show if a certain type of antigen is present in the cell. This allows it to be identified and intercepted by the CAR T-cells. Yet, this treatment alone contains many disadvantages, including easy exhaustion, lack of persistence, and increase of toxins in the body. Despite this, our project hoped to cancel out these disadvantages by incorporating CRISPR Cas-9 technology in the process. The prime editing software would have the capacity to edit the CAR T-cells to perform with greater accuracy and persistence, hopefully increasing the chance that all of the cancer cells would be identified and intercepted.
After finishing this program, I have a greater understanding of the origins of cancer on a cellular level. I am so thankful to have had this amazing opportunity to have such an immersive experience on such a beautiful campus.