Aug. 16, 2012
By Preslie Hirsch, ASU Communications intern
Put a Sun Devil through cardio training in the morning, place her in a science lab to conduct advanced research in the afternoon, send her to the soccer field to compete that evening. Repeat every day for an entire summer. That's what junior defender Jasmine "Jazz" Roth did for eight weeks this summer. It was a busy summer schedule, but it helped to have her biggest supporters, her parents (who live in her home state of California) cheering her on.
"Having that schedule for the majority of her internship, she never once complained, and it was never evident in her work that she was so busy," said Michael Syring, a research associate at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and mentor to Roth.
TGen, according to their website, is "a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization focused on developing earlier diagnostics and smarter treatments." Roth was among the 45 Helios Scholars this summer at TGen. This was the sixth year of the program, funded for 25 years through a $6.5 million grant from the Helios Education Foundation. The Helios program recruits hardworking students starving for knowledge and lab experience. And when searching Barrett, The Honors College website for internships last spring, Roth decided it was right up her alley. But it was a competitive spot, and despite lacking any previous lab or job experience whatsoever, Roth managed to snag it.
"I read each applicant's personal statement, letters of recommendation and scanned their academic coursework," Syring said. "This narrowed my search to about five possible applicants. Jasmine was chosen because of her enrollment in the Barrett College, biochemistry emphasis, and evident work ethic being an athlete with great grades and seeking more opportunities.
After face-to-face interviews, it became clear "Jasmine stood out from the rest," Syring said. "Jasmine asked some very intriguing questions that told me she was catching on quickly to a rather complex assay (method development and mass spectrometry).
Roth was thrilled to be selected, as she recently switched her major to biochemistry.
"Luckily for me, my mentor (Syring) chose to take me under his wing to help develop a method to extract proteins from Formalin-Fixed Paraffin-Embedded tissue (tissue preserved in wax). I felt a little behind in the beginning and there was a lot to learn, but it was really rewarding to be in the lab and doing the research," Roth said. "I wanted to intern with them (TGen) because it fit perfectly with my soccer schedule and it would allow me to determine if biomedical research is a potential career for me."
Don't let the word "intern" fool you; she was doing big things. In the lab, Roth worked hands-on developing a method that could potentially be used in the discovery of protein cancer biomarkers to better detect and diagnosis cancers. She worked side-by-side with researchers, giving speeches (something she admits she was petrified of before) and presenting her research to scientists, family and friends on a subject that isn't always easy to break down into simple terms. Her family and Boyd attended her final presentation during a scientific symposium held at the Downtown Phoenix Sheraton Hotel.
Being involved in such a high-level thinking program has done a lot for the soccer star. She has gained useful experience and has more insight on where she is going in the future.
"This internship has helped me see what a researcher truly is. It is more than just sitting at a lab bench. Data has to be presented, articles have to be written, grants have to be applied for, collaborations need to exist," Roth said. "When I graduate, I am hoping to pursue a career as a researcher, ophthalmologist or pharmacist. All I know for sure is that I want to do something science-related. This program has made me think about getting a M.D./Ph.D, but I am not completely sure about it."
And what's the biggest thing Roth has gained from this opportunity? The complete mentality change she went through.
"It has taught me never to give up even if the results aren't promising or if I make a mistake. I used to jump to conclusions, but I've opened up and broadened my horizons," she said. "Also, not thinking everything I have done is complete. There is always something more that you can do and there is always other questions you can ask."
"What I enjoy the most about researching is the potential to impact a person's life. Although it may not happen directly or right away, it is nice to know that I am helping out other people," she added.
Now that the internship is complete, Roth, - who's been playing soccer since she was seven-years-old - is back fully focused on the field. Her coach for nearly three-years now, Kevin Boyd, said on the field she's "a great defender and a great teammate," while off the field "she's very focused and academically inclined."
Roth advises other students, especially student-athletes craving hands-on experience to "apply to as many things as you can, don't ever think just because you don't have research experience that you can't do it," she said.
Summer is at its end and fall classes are soon underway for Sun Devils, but No. 10 says she still plans to continue researching.
"I wouldn't trade it for the world," Roth said. "I'm really thankful that I had this opportunity I'd like to thank TGen and the Helios Education Foundation."
Those interested in donating can do so at www.tgenfoundation.org.