Tribune photo by Antonio Perez
April 25, 2011
Working with embryonic zebra fish and equipment from Argonne National Laboratory last year showed Alexandra Rojek how much she enjoyed medical research and how good she could be at it.
In just eight weeks, the Northside College Preparatory High School student produced impressive and "polished" results that her supervising researcher said he used at a scientific conference, getting Rojek named as a co-author on the proceedings paper.
"It was phenomenal," said Patrick La Riviere, an assistant professor in the department of radiology at the University of Chicago, with whom Rojek worked on her American Cancer Society internship. "It changed my idea of what a high school student is capable of. She learned vast and fairly complicated math, picked up computer programming language we used and generated some useful results for me."
The two were working to determine optimal energy settings for micro-CT scans. They'll work together again this summer.
"I learned that collaboration is the most essential element not just in research, but any large project," Rojek said. "That you cant know everything on your own."
Besides her scientific bent, Rojek, 18, is a Latin scholar, winning Chicago Public Schools' Latin Olympics five years in a row. She's been part of the school's math team and helped secure $880,000 in grants over four years to install solar panels to heat the schools swimming pool. She's received a head start on college, taking classes at the University of Chicago as part of CPS' College Bridge program.
She was recently named Northside's valedictorian and this fall will head to Harvard University, where she hopes to major in chemical and physical biology.
By Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah