Health

High school graduate spends summer studying new way to fight cancer

He may be getting ready to start college at Washington and Lee University in Virginia, but the summer Charlie Weeks spent at the Georgia Cancer Center learning the molecular mechanisms of a major cancer associated protein is never far from his mind.

Weeks graduated from Baylor School, a private school for students grades six through twelve, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in May. With the help of Jaime Melton, director of alumni affairs and the Baylor Works internship program, he spent the summer volunteering with researcher Dr. Hasan Korkaya and his team, studying the protein A-20 and the role it plays in resisting apoptosis, or cell death.

“It is an extremely fulfilling type of learning for me,” Weeks said. “I’ve always had a particular interest in this kind of research. To be able to come to the Georgia Cancer Center and do this kind of research was very rewarding in my eyes.”

He said walking into the Georgia Cancer Center on the first day was quite the experience.

“It was super intimidating,” he said. “You have this huge research facility with an immense amount of lab space. I could see other principal investigators and their labs down the hallway.”

Weeks was one of two interns working in Korkaya’s lab. The second was a student from Greenbrier High School in Evans. Korkaya said he was happy to give the pair an opportunity at real-life lab experience.

“If these students have a dream to do cancer research, it’s a big plus to start them early on in high school and set their career for the future,” he said.

The research could open the door to new clinical trials and medications that target the anti-apoptic protein A20.

“I knew he’d be studying cancer research in depth, but I was not prepared for the size and scope of facilities available at the Georgia Cancer Center,” Melton said. “Charlie has had a world-class experience in research and the opportunity to use equipment as an incoming college freshmen that post-graduate students would only dream about.”

On his last day, Weeks presented his data and the conclusions he made based on that information to Korkaya and his team. Weeks said he’s already thinking about a future career that could bring him back to the Georgia Cancer Center.

“This was an extremely impressive experience for me,” he said. “I could definitely see myself coming back and doing more work here over a longer period of time.”

About the author

Chris Curry

Chris Curry is Communications Coordinator for the Georgia Cancer Center at Augusta University. Contact him to schedule an interview on this topic or with one of our experts at 706-799-8841 or chrcurry@augusta.edu.