Health, Science

High School Student Working On Cystic Fibrosis

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Marshall Zhang image Andrew Wallace Toronto StarThousands of young students across Canada take part in science projects to learn about the world around them.

Marshall Zhang, 16, in grade 11 in Richmond Hill, Ont., earned first place in a national science competition this year. He discovered something amazing while doing research on a disease called cystic fibrosis.

Marshall used a supercomputer network called SCINET. He had never used the network before, but quickly learned how to use it because he was already good at using computers.

“Marshall applied his interest and skills in computer graphics, which he developed while in Grade 5 and 6, to solve problems presented by cystic fibrosis,” said Tony Legault, the Toronto co-ordinator for the Sanofi-Aventis BioTalent Challenge science competition.

He discovered on this computer program that two specific drugs were very effective in fixing the gene that causes cystic fibrosis.

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that causes thick, sticky mucus to build in the lungs and parts of the digestive system, causing difficult breathing.

He had only one chance to test his theory on real cells in a lab, and it turned out that his computer research was right.Marshall_Zhang_with_poster

Marshall had e-mailed some chemistry professors looking to help out at a lab, but didn’t get a great response. He said it was hard finding a lab that would let him do research since he was still in high school and did not have any experience.

Dr. Christine Bear gave him a chance to work in his lab and she became Marshall’s mentor. Dr. Bear is a doctor at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children doing research on cystic fibrosis. She explained that using a computer and its lightning-speed processing can lead to discovering new types of drugs to help patients.

She said that Marshall could become a scientist in the future because he is very smart and has a lot of determination. She has invited Marshall to come back to her lab during the summer to do more research on cystic fibrosis.

Since he won the competition, Marshall has gotten phone calls from people whose children have cystic fibrosis. One mother said that his research gives her hope for her two-year-old daughter.

In June, Marshall will be participating in an international science competition called the International BioGENEius Challenge.

CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS

Writing/Discussion Prompt
Marshall used a computer to determine if certain drugs can fix the gene that causes cystic fibrosis.
Computers have had a tremendous impact in all areas of our world.  Think of at least 10 different ways in which computers have changed how we live, work and think.  In your opinion, which was the most significant way that computers have changed the world?

Reading Prompt
Before you began reading the article, had you ever heard of cystic fibrosis?  If so, what did you know about it?
After reading the article, what did you learn about cystic fibrosis?  What questions do you still have about this disease?

Junior
Identify a variety of reading comprehension strategies and use them appropriately before, during and after reading to understand texts. (OME, Reading: 1.3).

Intermediate
Identify a variety of reading comprehension strategies and use them appropriately before, during and after reading to understand increasingly complex texts. (OME, Reading: 1.3).

Grammar Feature: Pronouns
Pronouns are words used in the place of nouns.  Some pronouns are he, she, me, our.  In the article, one example of a sentence that has a pronoun is: “He discovered something amazing while doing research on a disease called cystic fibrosis.”  He is used instead of Marshall.
Underline all of the pronouns in the article and identify which noun they replace.