Redefining Success: CHS Senior Isabella Malick Performing Research at UT Southwestern

Isabella MalickCHS senior Isabella Malick is performing pioneering research alongside nationally recognized scientists at UT Southwestern Medical Center this fall and is receiving school  course credit for her work.  Malick is conducting research at the Collins Lab after being selected for the prestigious UT Southwestern STARS Summer Student Research Program over the summer. 

“I had such a great summer with the Collins Lab, so I decided to take advantage of UT Southwestern’s opportunity to allow high school students to intern at a lab in exchange for high school credit,” Malick says. Research in high school is important to me, first and foremost because I enjoy it. It is something that I look forward to every day, and it motivates me to better myself by learning new things.” 

The Collins Lab studies schistosome flatworms, which are parasites that cause schistosomiasis, a neglected tropical disease that has an impact comparable to malaria, where the host can experience severe symptoms like anemia, learning disabilities and paralysis. This disease afflicts more 240 million people in tropical areas like South America and Sub-Saharan Africa. 

The project Malickis is working on specifically is one that studies neoblasts or stem cells in juvenile schistosomes.

“We do this by sequencing the genetic data in juvenile schistosomes and then testing for the presence of certain genes in the worms,” Malick says. “The reason it is so important for us to understand juveniles better is so that we can target the worms before they begin to lay eggs, which are what leads to inflammation and the pathology of schistosomiasis.”

Malick is working with Dr. Jim Collins, as well as Sarah Cobb, who is a Ph.D. student at UT Southwestern and a MIT Amgen Scholar. 

Being able to participate in a lab environment is an important experience for Malik, because it allows her to gain early experience into her planned future career in scientific research, either in academia or industry. She is currently applying to colleges and plans on majoring in biology for undergraduate degree before graduate school and her career. 

“My CISD education has helped me so much in my accomplishments, because of the wide range of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) courses I have been able to explore and pursue,” Malick says. “I have had so much fun being able to participate in all the fun projects and labs my teachers set up for me and my peers, allowing me to experience hands-on learning for everything from enzymes to titrations to euler’s line.”

She adds, “Many of the teachers I have had the chance to learn from have played an integral role in my interest in science, supporting me through all my endeavors, whether school related or not, and I would certainly attribute my success to them.” 

Malick is excited to be receiving course credit for doing research at UT Southwestern, something she says truly makes her happy. 

“I am extremely thankful for all the support I have received from CISD teachers, counselors, and administrators in pursuing an alternative course this school year,” she says. “I hope that more students will have this same opportunity to define their own paths to success in the future.”

Malick encourages high school students and high school juniors in particular to apply to the UT STARS Summer Research Program, if interested. 

“Even if you feel you don’t have enough previous experiences with science research, I still encourage you to try,” Malick says.  “What’s important to the application isn’t having a lengthy list of achievements, but demonstrating your passion for science and the unique ways in which you have pursued it.” 

For more information on the UT Southwestern STARS Summer Research Program, visit www.utsouthwestern.edu/education/programs/stars/programs/summer-research-opportunities.html