Cardiothoracic Surgery

Julia Ransohoff Selected as a Finalist in the Intel Science Talent Search

Julia Ransohoff
Julia Ransohoff
Intel Science Talent Search Finalist

Formerly sponsored by Westinghouse, and now sponsored by the Intel Corporation and the Intel Foundation, the Society for Science & the Public’s Science Talent Search (STS) is America’s oldest and most prestigious science research competition for high school seniors.

From the Intel STS website:

Since 1942, first in partnership with Westinghouse and since 1998 with Intel, the competition has provided a national stage for America’s best and brightest young scientists to present original research to nationally recognized professional scientists.

Each spring, 40 finalists are selected from a nationwide pool of thousands to attend the week-long Science Talent Institute in Washington, D.C. There, students have the opportunity to present their research projects to the general public and members of the scientific community at the National Academy of Sciences, meet with distinguished government leaders and participate in a rigorous judging process. Over $1 million is awarded annually to Intel STS participants and their schools. Awards range from $5,000 scholarship grants and laptop computers for all finalists to the grand prize of a $100,000 college scholarship.

Julia Ransohoff, a high-school senior at Menlo-Atherton High School as well as a student investigator in the Cardiothoracic Transplantation Lab in the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, is one of this year’s finalists. In previous years, Intel Finalists have had the opportunity to meet the President or Vice President at the White House.

Ransohoff has this to say about the possibility of such an honor.

"I would be honored to meet President Obama, as I am excited for all that lies ahead in the field of regenerative medicine and for the doors opened by his policies."

Ransohoff explains what attracted her to this competition.

“I felt that writing a paper describing my research and summarizing my results would allow me to pull together my knowledge and experience, locating our work in the context of the current scientific literature and the findings of other groups. The Intel application also included essays that encouraged my reflection on my approach to problem-solving and on the role of science in my life and in our society.”

Ransohoff’s work in the Cardiothoracic Transplantation Lab with co-investigator and sister, Katie Ransohoff (19), and Clinical Instructor Sonja Schrepfer, MD, PhD, provided the clinical research necessary for the competition. Her project, “The Gender Divide: Does Donor Gender Matter for Mesenchymal Stem Cell Transplantation?”, focused on mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) that can change into a variety of cell types and the factors affecting their successful use in restoring damaged cardiac tissue after a heart attack. Although recent research proposes that females possess naturally greater cardioprotection than males, Julia believes otherwise. Her investigation showed that female stem cells release a markedly higher amount of immune-system-activating proteins that may attack MSCs and limit their survival after transplant. These findings may contribute to advancing the field of stem cell biology and transplant immunology.

Ransohoff is grateful for the opportunities offered at Stanford.

“Working in the Cardiothoracic Transplantation [CT] Laboratory with Dr. Sonja Schrepfer and my sister, Katie Ransohoff, through Dr. Utz's Stanford Institutes of Medicine Summer Research Program [SIMR], represented an outstanding opportunity to be part of a supportive and dynamic team. As I immersed myself in research, I appreciated how truly interdisciplinary the work of the CT Laboratory is, combining cardiology with immunology, regenerative medicine, endocrinology, and surgery. Working with such dedicated and accomplished scientists gave me firsthand experience in thinking broadly about scientific questions, carrying out precise laboratory techniques, and analyzing and synthesizing results. Every day, I learned something new, wanted to stay late, come in early in the morning, and actively take a step toward addressing our hypothesis.”

Clinical Instructor Schrepfer comments on Ransohoff’s distinguished award.

“It is very nice to see, that hard work during the summer gets rewarded with such a prestigious nomination. Julia is an outstanding student with energy, enthusiasm, and creativity, and she’s an excellent candidate for this award. I enjoy every day with Julia. She has an exceptional personality, and it is a pleasure and honor to mentor and teach her.”

Katie Ransohoff, Julia’s co-investigator and sister, is also proud.

“It is wonderful that there are opportunities like the SIMR program and mentors like Dr. [Robert C.] Robbins [professor and chairman of cardiothoracic surgery and former director of the CT Lab] and Dr. Schrepfer for young scientists to seek out and interact with. I am proud of Julia's recognition as an Intel STS Finalist. Encouragement and recognition of young scientists like myself and my sister, Julia, is motivating and provides an opportunity for the next generation of scientists to engage with high level work at this stage. Julia and I find it fascinating to think out loud together, plan experiments, and work as a team. Not only are Julia and I co-investigators, we are also best friends, and I am more than excited for her and what lies ahead.”

Outside of the laboratory, Ransohoff is engaged in several long-term projects involving peer health education, teen literacy, and social venture work. She is a student council officer at Menlo-Atherton High School and the president of the school's Outreach service program. Ransohoff will be entering college this fall with the intention of attending medical school and pursuing a career as a surgeon in academic medicine.

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