STEM Lecture Series continues at Mesa

Emma Bloom, Staff Writer

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Dr. Carl Ware stood at the front of the auditorium discussing how his team’s research had established a definitive link between cancer and the immune system on Oct. 27. The auditorium’s seats were mostly taken and the students who filled them were fixated on what he had to say. “Insights Into Our Sixth Sense: Our Immune System” was the second life sciences talk in Mesa’s STEM Lecture Series and there was barely a cell phone in sight amongst the approximately 120 audience members. They sat scribbling notes as Ware described a new cancer treatment, developed with his team at the Sanford, Bernham, Prebys Medical Discovery Institute. The side effects of this therapy include autoimmune disease symptoms, indicating a strong connection between cancer and the immune system. “It says a lot about who we are as people,” said Ware. The drug turns off the regulators that normally dampen our immune system’s response to threats so that our bodies don’t become over-inflamed. Allowing the immune system to attack full-force, they found, did indeed help it to fight cancer, but it also meant that patients developed classic symptoms of autoimmune disease, such as psoriasis.

Interspersed among the photos of flaky skin and herpes sores were renderings of immune system proteins, which looked like psychedelic snowballs and could hold the interest of even the least scientifically-minded.

In fact, not everyone in the audience was a science major. Claire Aquino, a high school student, attended with her dad. “I’m using the STEM lectures to look deeper into what I might want to do,” she said.

This exposure to science careers is largely the purpose of the lectures. Kevin Krown, Mesa Biology professor who heads the biology arm of the series, explained that many community college students aspire to careers like nursing, without ever considering the alternate path of research in their preferred field.

For pre-nursing student, Jenny Robinson, the lecture did prove more interesting than anticipated. “I didn’t fall asleep during this one,” she said: high praise for a 7 p.m. science lecture.

Watch videos from the lecture series here:

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