SNU Student, Johnnie Renee West, OMRF Fleming Scholar 2008, reflects on Summer 2009 Research

SNU Student, Johnnie Renee West, OMRF Fleming Scholar 2008, reflects on Summer 2009 Research

     The Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF) Sir Alexander Fleming Scholar for 2008 - Johnnie Renee West, who is a sophomore at Southern Nazarene University (SNU), took some time to share with us about this summers research work at OMRF. 

SNU Sophomore, Johnnie Renee West 

Johnnie was named a Fleming Scholar in 2008, making her SNU’s most recent student selected for this prestigious program. Philip Cox, a SNU Senior Biology-Chemistry major, was named as one of only twelve Fleming Scholars in 2007. Earlier SNU students named as Fleming Scholars include Debbie Lynn Keith (1990) and Virginia Dawn Hendrix (1989). 

On with the interview with West:

How did the opportunity to work at OMRF come about this summer?

The opportunity for working at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation this summer actually came about last summer when I finished with the Sir Alexander Fleming Scholar Program. One of the interviewers from my Fleming Scholar program approached me on the last day of the program and asked if I was the girl who grew up drag racing. Indeed, I was that girl. He handed me his business card and told me to call him in the spring if I wanted to do some research with him in the Advanced Magnetic Resonance Center. In February of this year, I called him and asked if the offer still stood, and he was true to his word so here I am today.

What is it that you have researched on this summer at OMRF?

This summer my research has been focused in the area of liver cancer. We are trying to develop a way to earlier detect liver cancer. At this point and time, liver cancer can basically be a death sentence. Many times, tumors in the liver are not found until it is too late to do much for the patient, so our focus is to be able to determine what the telltale signs are of the cancer starting to develop. Once we know where the cancers begin to form within the liver and what occurs at the initial development of the tumors, we can move onto finding a way to cure the cancer.

How has the time spent doing research at OMRF influenced your career direction?

The two summers that I have spent at OMRF have been wonderful eye openers for me. Prior to working at OMRF last summer, I had my own little idea of what medical research was, and I was definitely proven wrong the day I stepped into the lab. My experience last summer was in immunology and there was a lot of work at the bench and more biological in nature. This summer, I am working in the Advanced Magnet Resonance Center, and I am doing research-using data gathered from Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR). Working with MRI and NMR is more based in mathematics, chemistry, and mechanics than in biological sciences. Between the two summers, I have learned that I like the biological side of research, but I more prefer working in the mathematical and chemistry side. I also have a great desire to study more and go farther into research using MRI and NMR techniques. Both fields are continuing to grow at a rapid rate, and I would love to be apart of what is to come.

How was your first year at SNU in regards to what your expectations were as a freshman?

My first year at SNU was great. I absolutely loved it! I had very high expectations for the science department because of their reputation across the state and even throughout the country. They have by far met my expectations and exceeded many of them. As far as expectations for the rest of the university, I was not quite sure what to expect when I arrived because I had done concurrent enrollment at a public school. SNU has been a wonderful experience for me, I love the Christian atmosphere and how most, if not all, professors are willing to talk with students on various subject matters and many of them have open door policies.

What is it that you are most looking forward to as a returning sophomore at SNU?

When I return this fall, I am looking forward to seeing my friends and getting to visit with people I have not seen for a whole summer. I am definitely not ready to return to the coursework though. What I am most looking forward to for my sophomore year is going to Costa Rica with the science department. I will be spending my spring semester doing research at the Quetzal Education Research Center (QERC). I cannot wait to experience life in another country and spend an entire semester in the rainforest.

SNU is proud of Johnnie’s selection and her continuing work in research with OMRF. She is an SNU student making a difference in our world.

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

For more information about the Fleming Scholar program at OMRF, visit