An Interview with Fleming Scholar, Johnnie West

An Interview with Fleming Scholar, Johnnie West

Johnnie West, 2008 Sir Alexander Fleming Scholar  and freshman at Southern Nazarene University (SNU) recently completed her summer assigned research project at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF).   Her research project was to study how variation in immune system cell development may aid the killing of cancer cells.  West worked with OMRF researcher Dr. Jose Alberola-Ila, M.D., Ph.D.  and Idoia Gimferrer, M.D., Ph.D.  

As an up-and-coming freshman at SNU, what is it that you are most looking forward to when classes start in the Fall?

WEST:  First and foremost it would have to be starting my new life at college.  I am really excited about getting to be in classes that will challenge me in how I think spiritually and academically.  And, of course I am looking forward to getting to meet new people and to make new friends. 

In addition to being a Fleming Scholar, I understand that you are one of SNU’s Science Scholars as well?

WEST:  Yes, I was selected as a SNU Science Scholar.  In order to be invited, a scholar had to have a certain ACT score and grades were also a factor.  After the initial selection, the SNU scholars had to turn in an essay over a controversial topic in science.  In the essay, we had to present both sides of the controversy as well as give our personal opinions.  While on campus for the Math and Science Scholar weekend, we had to do a timed essay as well as two interviews.  Each of the interviews was with two professors and a student. 

What drew your interest to attend SNU?

WEST:  Initially I was drawn to SNU because of the quality of academics, the Christ-centered campus / campus life, and the campus community size.  During the Math and Science Scholars’ weekend, I absolutely fell in love with SNU.  The thing that probably stuck out to me the most was how God’s presence could be felt during the chapel service and throughout the entire weekend. While I was with the faculty and the students, I felt like I was right at home and welcomed by everyone I came in contact with during the weekend.  I knew for a fact that I would be at SNU in the Fall when I was driving home from the Scholars’ weekend.  I felt like I was leaving somewhere I belonged and I wanted to go back even though I had just left.  Another thing that made me look even closer at SNU was everything I heard about SNU from other people.   When my dad would tell people about where I was looking to go to school, many of them would say, “Well I haven’t heard much about the other schools, but I hear SNU is a great place.”  There was also an alumnus that my dad knows who I sat and talked with for over an hour, and he had wonderful things to say about his and his children’s experiences at SNU.  I know that God was using these peopleand my experience over the weekend at SNU to show me exactly where I needed to be. 

The Sir Alexander Fleming Scholar Program was founded in 1956 as a way to give Oklahoma’s high school and college students “hand-on”experience in basic biomedical research and is named for Sir Alexander Fleming, the famed British scientist, who discovered penicillin.  The program became a model for anational program funded by the federal government in 1982.  In 1988, an endowment was establishedfor the Fleming Scholar Program. 

For more information about the Fleming Scholar programthrough OMRF, visit