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Life-Enhancing Research: High School Researcher Collaborates with UAlbany Scientists

June 16, 2008

Columbia High School student Jeff Knox works with UAlbany researcher Scott Tenenbaum

Columbia High School sophomore Jeff Knox works with UAlbany researcher Scott Tenenbaum. (Photo by Mark Schmidt)

Inside the labs at UAlbany's Cancer Center, Jeff Knox is among the distinguished scientists developing sophisticated technology to examine cancerous tumors. Dressed in the traditional lab coat and goggles, Knox resembles the other researchers, except for one thing - he's a sophomore in high school.

At 16, Knox is working with Assistant Professor Scott Tenenbaum to develop faster ways to profile tumors, allowing for more customized cancer patient treatments. Twice a week, Knox jogs the three miles from Columbia High School to work on his project at the Gen*NY*Sis Center for Excellence in Cancer Genomics on UAlbany's East Campus. Knox is afforded this opportunity through UAlbany's Science Research in the High School program.

Since 1994, the University at Albany-SUNY has sponsored the Science Research in the High School program, allowing high school students to conduct original scientific research.

Columbia High School sophomore Jeff Knox

Knox, 16, is helping UAlbany scientists develop technology to examine cancerous tumors. (Photo by Mark Schmidt)

Until now, Knox had never considered pursing cancer genomics as a potential career path. But the experience has changed all that.

"I never could have pictured myself in this lab a year ago," said Knox, who contacted Tenenbaum after reading some of his research articles.

Tenenbaum, a molecular geneticist in the School of Public Health and Gen*NY*sis Center for Excellence in Cancer Genomics, has helped pioneer work in the breaking field of ribonomics, which uses RNA-binding proteins to identify which sets of genes are involved in specific diseases. His research on the organization and function of human genes has been funded by the Dominic Ferraioli Foundation, the Bender Scientific Fund and the National Human Genome Research Institute, among others.

"I really feel like we are accomplishing something. If this project can do all the things we think it can do, it definitely has the potential to help a lot of people," said Knox.

While Knox is on the cutting-edge of life-enhancing research, he still manages to find time for teenage activities. He performs with the school band, volunteers with the Boy Scouts and plays soccer.

Still, he doesn't mind trading in the soccer jersey for a white lab coat -- it's all in the name of research.

"Jeff is an amazingly mature young man who is incredibly inquisitive," said Tenenbaum. "With the technology in which Jeff is involved, we have the potential to measure tens of hundreds of various proteins at a time, which has tremendous potential for future research and treatments."

Related Links:
Gen*NY*Sis Center for Excellence in Cancer Genomics
Science Research in the High School

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