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Teen interns with HCC scientist

March 11, 2011|By MARIE GILBERT | marieg@herald-mail.com

Last summer wasn't a day at the beach for Yunji Seol.

It was weeks in a lab.

While other teens might have been working on their tans, Yunji, surrounded by microscopes and test tubes, was working on advancing a career in science.

The 17-year-old Williamsport High School student was one of a select group of young people who participated in Hagerstown Community College's Biotechnology Summer Institute.

Through the competitive program, Yunji gained valuable hands-on laboratory experience, had opportunities to work with professionals and earned college science credits.

It also opened another door for the high school senior — an internship at HCC with a Ph.D. scientist.

All this from a young woman who didn't really like science until the ninth grade.

"I was into other things," she said. "But then I learned that science is really interesting.  There's a mystery behind it, an unknown factor that's fascinating."

Yunji credits a high school biology teacher with opening her eyes to the world of science.

"She was a cancer researcher who made the course so interesting," Yunji said. "It was exciting going to class."

And when her uncle had a stroke several years ago, "I decided, from that point, that I wanted to go into medicine, study the human body and make a difference in people's lives."

Last summer's biotech program only furthered her interest in a science career, she said.

"I really enjoyed it, especially the labs, where we worked on things like DNA," she said.

Now, she's gaining even more experience. She's enrolled in BTC102 — Introduction to Applied Biotechnology at HCC and is completing a research project under the mentorship of Dr. Meena Chandok.

Yunji began her three-day a week internship in February.

"Right now, I'm learning the basics," she said. "But I‘m looking forward to all I can learn."

"I really, really am focused on this career path, so this is a great opportunity for me," she said.

Like other seniors, Yunji said she has been looking at colleges, especially those with great medical schools.  She is interested in cancer research.

Yunji said education always has been important in her family "and my mom has always been really strict when it comes to my studies."

But her dedication has paid off. Yunji said her grade point average is more than a 4.0.

When she isn't busy with school work, Yunji said she loves to read.

She also enjoys sharing her Korean heritage with others.

"I'm very proud of my heritage," she said. "It's something unique about myself — I've spoken Korean since I was little."

Yunji said she was born in Pennsylvania but her family moved to Washington County when she was in the second grade. They lived in Hagerstown, before moving to Williamsport.

Yunji is the daughter of Sang G. Seol and Eunyoung Seol of Williamsport, and has two younger brothers.

She currently serves as president of her school's STEM Club (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

Chastity Gloyd, AP biology teacher at Williamsport High School, said Yunji is the first student from the school to intern at HCC.

"Students from other county high schools have participated in the program,  but this is a first for us," she said. "We're really excited."
"Yunji is awesome," she added. "The fact that she gave up her summer and has given up so much of her time  — many kids wouldn't do it. She'll be a good geneticist one day."

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