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Hillcrest junior to compete at national science competitions

Published April 27, 2012 1:20 pm

Cancer research • Evans turned job shadow at Hunstman Cancer Institute into research project.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

May is a busy month for Andrea Evans.

The junior at Hillcrest High School will present research at the National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium in Bethesda, Md. Then she's going to Pittsburg to compete in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

Though she's young, she has ventured far into the world of science, specifically cancer research.

One of the projects she is working on looks at how a certain protein that is found in large amounts in cancer cells can be inactivated. The research likely would baffle not only most of her high school peers, but also anyone without an advanced degree in cellular biology.

But Evans loves it.

"I have always wanted to get into research," Evans said. "I've enjoyed it so much and it's a rewarding experience."

Her love of research came from a job shadow she did as part of the Canyons School District's Program called Job Shadow that allows students to tag along with professionals in different fields. Evans participated two years ago at the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

Her interest in cancer came from her grandmother's fight with breast cancer, said Teri Evans, Andrea Evan's mother.

"She started to do the Susan G. Komen walk in the fourth grade," Teri Evans said. "Her grandmother had breast cancer, and that's where she got interested."

On her job shadow, Andrea Evans had a chance to work with a Huntsman Cancer Institute investigator David Lum, who is also a research assistant professor in the Department of Oncological Sciences at the University of Utah School of Medicine. Her project on cancer proteins is based on Lum's research at the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

He said Evans is smart, energetic and eager to learn, and he's happy about her success.

"It demonstrates her understanding of the project and her ability to get things done," Lum said.

Evans took her job shadow with Lum seriously, and has applied that knowledge.

"The fist summer I learned the basics of research," she said. "I went home, researched, looked at the different protocols and designed my own experiment."

She competed in the Salt Lake Valley Science and Engineering Fair with her cancer-protein project and won first place in the Senior Division's Cellular and Molecular Biology category.

At the fair, Evans was one of five students named as the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair Grand Champion Winners, giving her the opportunity to compete in Pittsburg May 13-18.

"I feel like I have as good a chance as anyone," she said. "I'm just really excited for the opportunity."

According to its website, Intel's fair hosted 15,000 finalists from 65 countries last year; prizes are given out in different categories.

Evans' family is familiar with the Intel fair because her two older brothers have competed in previous years. She has never gone, though, but her brothers are good examples to her.

"I have them to look up to and ask questions," she said. "I've seen them being able to accomplish so much."

Her brothers are both studying in medical programs, but Evans is unsure about what she wants to pursue. Although her foot seems to be firmly planted in science, she wants to keep her options open.

"Science is definitely up there, but I also have interest in English," she said.

Evans also competed at the Utah Science Olympiad, where she took first place in State Finals in the Microbe Mission Category. This summer she is going to work on a new research project at the University of Texas' MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

At the Salt Lake fair, Evans also won an $80,000 scholarship to Westminster College, but she still has a year of high school left to consider where she wants to go to school.

She also earned a full-ride scholarship to the University of Utah at the regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium held at the school.

"I know whatever I end up doing, it's something you can help people or inspire people," she said.

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