BR teen spends summer in stem cell research

Many teenagers spend their summer at the pool or spending time with friends. Not Will Smith, of Baton Rouge.

A senior at the Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts, Smith participated in a stem cell research internship in St. Gabriel and a Howard Hughes Medical internship at the University of Louisiana at Monroe and attended Boys’ State.

Smith said while at ULM he did a lot of work with DNA and doing PCR, which helps identify the number of base payers found in a sequence of DNA. That is a method used in crime scene analysis. He also worked with proteins and with plants, figuring out whether they had been genetically modified.

He then researched stem cells at the LSU Biological Reproduction Center in St. Gabriel.

“I did a lot of work with fat cells because stem cells can be derived from fat,” said Smith. “I was trying to figure out whether the cells would grow better in a high sugar environment or low sugar environment. ...

“When I finish it up I will have a better idea of whether the fat cells like a high sugar environment or low sugar environment, which will allow more efficient growth of the cells.”

He also attended Boys’ State on the Northwestern State University campus.

“From the time we got there, it was really quick and there was no time for sleep at all,” he said.

“Attending Boys’ State made me realize that I am a leader. We were divided into seven or eight parishes and in each parish there were two cities. There were 55 members in my parish, and they nominated me to be parish president. ... I also won most outstanding member in the parish.”

Now that school is in session, Smith continues his busy life with classes and extracurricular activities.

Smith serves as president of Beta Club. He is a member of the basketball and volleyball teams, Spanish Honor Society, National Honor Society, Student Activities Board and the Black Student Union.

Smith has learned to balance his school work and his other activities.

“If I have work that is due on a Friday, but it is a Wednesday and I have an hour or two free, instead of just hanging out or talking, I will do that work instead.”

Smith said he would love to attend Columbia University in New York City. His back-up schools are Louisiana Tech University and Tulane University.

He said the schools are great for bio-medical engineering “But there is just something about New York City,” he said.

Smith plans to attend medical school and become an orthopedic surgeon.