Kate LeBlanc absolutely loves the brain; it astounds, mystifies and challenges her. She discovered this fascination during the summer of 2015 while interning with Saturday Academy’s Apprenticeships in Science & Engineering (ASE) Program. For eight weeks, Kate worked full-time at the Portland VA Medical Center under the direction of three mentors. Kate was a bit overwhelmed at first, working in a lab 40 hours a week with esteemed researchers and accomplished graduate students. She quickly became comfortable, however, working with her team, asking questions, and taking initiative. She also became extremely dedicated to learning all she could about the brain.
Kate assisted her mentors, Dr. John Crabbe, Dr. Pamela Metten and Dr. Angela Ozburn in the study of behavioral responses to drugs in mice. During her time as an intern, Kate wrote procedures, gathered results and analyzed data. She examined the ways in which different factors, such as light, influence the alcohol consumption patterns of a certain strain of mice. Her research gave her the opportunity to study the brain and discover its magnificence. Kate says, “I trace my appreciation for its beauty to when I first saw a brain under a microscope and when I got to dissect one myself.”
While her entire internship experience was tremendously impactful, Kate recalls one particularly remarkable day. When she went to run some tests, Kate discovered the machine she needed was broken. Kate’s mentor, Dr. Ozburn, was in surgery at the time. Kate alerted her to the broken machine, she said, “thank you for letting me know. Do you want to stay and watch this surgery?” Kate ardently accepted the invitation and intently watched her mentor with admiration. In watching the surgery, Kate realized that she not only wants to be a medical researcher but a medical doctor as well.
Next to her parents, Kate says her ASE mentors have had the greatest influence on her life so far. The group went on hikes, visited the beach and shared a common love for the brain. With support and encouragement from her mentors and family, Kate applied and was accepted to attend Stanford University next fall. She plans to study biology, physics and computer science. She is well on her way to earning her PhD and MD.