Fourteen Questions to A Cancer Research Student and Author

All I know about life I learned from a bowl of gold fish. Okay…maybe not everything, but I learned some of the important parts of life from watching a bowl of fish. One of those important parts of life is that we all want to lead. We all want to have a moment where we have affected the life of someone else. We all want to be the cause of change in the life of our bowl mates.

I’ve been writing Navigating Your Fishbowl blog for four years. My purpose has been to help you, my reader grow from being a bottom feeder to an exceptional leader. For the very first time in my blogging career, I’m presenting an interview I conducted with an up and coming leader. This young woman is taking action at the age of sixteen I’m confident will change the life of many people who suffer from cancer.

Jennifer Schwartz is an inspiration to me. She and a group of her high school peers discuss the most recent new ideas being explored by people all over the world. They share what they think are the most important issues facing society from social media to medicine. Jennifer says, “I am able to see what ideas can change the world and I only wish to help promote these.”

I hope Jennifer remembers me when she wins the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts.

Jennifer Schwartz is from Ridgefield, Connecticut. She is currently nearing completion of her junior year at Ridgefield High School, where one of her courses has been the Science Research Program, a three-year elective. Jennifer has recently published a book titled: On the Right Track, A Student’s Memoir of Research, Advancement, and Holding on to Hope. Her book was released on May 17, 2015 and available now on Amazon.com

Jennifer’s book is about her journey through the Science Research Program, and is filled with emotional anecdotes and new perspectives on innovative cancer research. The program is made up of a community of students who travel together from early curiosity to self-discovery in the science research world. Students’ topics are not just projects, these are the ideas that will fuel the future of research and innovation. Jennifer chronicles her struggles and successes, both in the program and in her life, to create a powerful and touching story.

I have read the first three chapters of Jennifer’s book. Following are a few excerpts from those three chapters:

“I know cancer is a seemingly endless struggle in which people undergo significant torture to fight to reach remission. Their cure may not be the end of their journey, but the end of their current suffering.”

“To me success is increasing the well-being of the world and the lives of the people who inhabit it.”

“This book is a reflection on my first steps toward lighting a match to ignite hope.”

“I took this fear and turned it into an ambitious energy….”

“I watched my mother lose her hair and feel sick.”

“Every decision one makes is based on their previous experiences.”

You can contact Jennifer on her website: www.jenniferleeschwartz.wordpress.com  She is also on Twitter @jenschwartz798


Following are Jennifer’s answers to my candid questions:

Q: Hope is in the title of your book. What are you hoping for?

A: In my book I tell a story of meeting a girl who was a cancer survivor. I hope that the type of research I’m doing will change the type of treatment she and others with cancer will have to go through, and make it easier to go through cancer treatment. I hold on to hope that the future is always improving, and that cancer treatments are getting better every day. I also hope to be successful through the science of research to help other people.

Q: What is your purpose in writing this book, or what do you want the reader to do after reading your book?

A: I want to show people the unique experience I had compared to other high school students. I also want to show people that no one is limited in how they can make a difference. I believe more people should put effort into making an issue better by helping other people rather than by raising money. Creating opportunity for yourself and finding your passion isn’t so hard. When you apply yourself to the right things, you’ll get a result.

Sarah and John are two of my closest friends, and we have started a TED Ed club at our school, which is a high school version of a TED event. It’s about finding what you’re passionate about, exploring your interests, learning how to share your ideas with the world, and how to present your ideas in a way that connects with the audience.

Q: Are there other schools in your area that offer a Science Research Program?

A: A few high schools have implemented the program, which started as an idea from the University of Albany. Each school that has the program runs it a little differently. A science fair is held every year that involves students in the high school programs. My high school has been doing it for four years, I believe. It is just one elective course. I have seven other classes each day.

Q: Is this your favorite subject?

A: It is, even though I find anatomy more interesting and more fun. This course allows me to get what I want out of it. I can watch a video of a doctor doing a presentation, or read a journal article. I can do what I want, but still get the most out of it without being stuck to a particular curriculum. We have milestones to meet every month, but it’s pretty loose.

Q: Where did your inspiration come from to write a book about your experience in the Science Research Program?

A: I wanted to show people the beginning of my journey – from my Sophomore year. There are steps you can take to help yourself and your future.I wanted to show the steps I’m taking that will hopefully make a difference.

Q: What has been the result of your two years with this program? Have you accomplished what you wanted to so far, and what do you still have left to do?

A: I feel like I’ve accomplished more than I ever thought I would. I came into the course thinking I would get to the cool topic, maybe go to some science fairs, and place in one of them – hopefully. I didn’t realize it was even possible for me to write a book, or to place at a science fair as a junior. I didn’t think I’d be talking on stage at the end of the year. The sophomore year set me up for the rest of my success. My junior year is where I really started to see results of the research.

Q: You weren’t sure what you wanted to research when you began the program. You considered many topics as they related to science and genetics. How did you finally come to choose the one that you knew was the right topic (Cancer treatment drugs) to research?

A: I started researching birth defects and toxins that could be in food products that could lead to the development of birth defects. It was such a controversial topic, and I didn’t always believe what other scientists were reporting. I didn’t want to be too controversial. I started researching Downs Syndrome, but I didn’t want to get involved in that. I didn’t believe I should look for a cure for Downs Syndrome because I know people with Downs Syndrome, and I love them just the way they are. I wouldn’t want to picture them any other way.

I wanted a topic where I could really make a difference and change someone for the better. I wanted to feel fulfilled, knowing I was making a positive difference. I started reading a lot of articles about things that interested me. I found an article about specific cancer treatments, and how they targeted one little protein that could kill cancer cells, and I thought that was so cool. It proved an effective way to destroy the cancer without hurting the body of the person with cancer like chemo therapy does. My amazement in this made me realize this must be the topic I should research. As I continued, I discovered so many more reasons why I love this topic.

At first, I didn’t want to let passion control my decision, but then I thought, of course I should let passion control my decision! It was an emotional decision and I settled on the topic. I read news articles and journal articles and everything I could find about these proteins.

Q: How are you marketing your book?

A: I have a friend, John who wrote a book, and we had an event together at a local library where we invited friends and family. We had two articles written about us and had some sales online from that, but most of the sales happened that day at the library.

Q: Do you plan to write a second book?

A: That’s what a lot of people have been asking me. I think I will wait until this summer to decide. I will be doing my research, and maybe some eventful things will happen. I might wait until after my senior year as a second step to my story. I don’t think I’ll write a trilogy for my three years.

Q: What does the future hold for you? What do you want to do with the knowledge you’ve gained in this process?

A: This summer I will be in a lab doing some research, and that will help me decide if this is a career for me. It could be, but I want to be open minded. I’m definitely going into the sciences.

Q: Is there an end product or a presentation of some kind that you’ll end the class with in your senior year?

A: During the summer between junior and senior year, students go around the world to research centers. This summer I will be experimenting by testing some cancer drugs. Our final report will be like a journal article. Then I will apply to present at some science fairs and hopefully attend some.

Q: What type of experiments are you doing this summer? Are you using mice?

A: We start by using cell life to test the efficacy of certain drugs and to test proteins inside of a cell. That will lead to information for clinical trials in the future. After we determine which drug is more effective, then they would be given to mice.

Q: This interest in cancer began because your mother had cancer when you were very young. How is your mother today?

A: She’s very healthy and has been cancer free for a long time.

Q: What else would you like for my readers to know about your book?

A: I wanted to thank a teacher at my school. He was my advisory teacher and he’s the one that helped me, John and Alexandra to write our books. I wanted to give credit to Mr. Bryan Holmes. I wanted to give you his website, as well as John’s and Alexandra’s websites. Mr. Holmes wrote a book about how to self publish. He didn’t market his own book that much because he wanted to help us market our books. That was really nice.

Here is Mr. Holmes’ www.bryanholmesstem.wordpress.com

This concludes my interview with Jennifer Lee Schwartz, an impressive science student who is determined to make a difference in her world! I appreciate the opportunity to help her market her book and share her story.

Jennifer inspires me because she practices what she preaches in her book – to open your mind to all possibilities, then allow an emotional connection to naturally help you realize your passion.

I encourage you, my readers, to check out Jennifer’s book, as well as the literary works of her teacher and friends. Also available on Amazon is my book – SELF Centered Leadership: Becoming Influential, Intentional and Exceptional. 

I hope Jennifer’s interview has inspired you to be curious in your search for actions you can take to better the life of yourself and others. Happy swimming!

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