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14-year-old medical student conducts cancer research in summer program

By Ja Nai Wright

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    BALTIMORE (WMAR) — Alena McQuarter is just 14 years old and is already about to have bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University.

For the past three months, McQuarter has been conducting ovarian cancer research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

She is a part of an American Cancer Society Program that promotes diversity in cancer research.

McQuarter says her passion started at a really young age.

“It really started with my love for stem, which I’ve had like since forever,” she said.

McQuarter graduated from high school at 12 years old and began her college career.

She is currently in her senior year of college and spent this summer studying in Dr. Webb’s lab.

“She works hard; she’s really smart and sometimes when kids are smart’ they take a lot of things for granted, but I would have to tell her to go home,” says Dr. Tonya Webb, Associate Professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

McQuarter is researching the effects of natural compounds in dietary foods and how they can reduce ovarian cancer growth.

The summer program ends Friday.

“It’s been an amazing process to be in the lab doing the research and now being able to share with others,” said McQuarter.

In addition to being in school, she also created a scholarship program called Brown Stem Girls.

“To really inspire, you know, girls of color who want to get into the stem field, because there is like amazing girls all over the world who, you know, weren’t given the same chances to really go into the stem field and be offered all of the resources that they may need and really succeed,” she said.

Dr. Webb says McQuarter has been an inspiration in more ways than one.

“I feel joy just to know that someone at this age who has been given opportunities is wanting to pay that forward and give people all around the world opportunities,” says Dr. Webb.

After she graduates, McQuarter is perusing her PhD in cancer research; she also plans to study viruses.

She wants to eventually create her own vaccine; she was inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic and the research done to create a vaccine fighting off Coronavirus.

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