When Meha Sharma's parents plucked her and her now 16-year-old brother from their home in northern India and moved with them to Payson, they wanted to give their children better opportunities, Sharma says.
Opportunities, perhaps, like the six-week session this summer at Emory Winship Cancer Institute in Atlanta, Ga. that allowed Sharma to aid in breast cancer research.
The 17-year-old Payson High School senior wants to earn a Ph.D. in pharmaceutical research, and while seemingly humble, Sharma avoids allowing self-doubt to paralyze her.
"I don't have a perfect GPA," she said recently. "I try to be myself."
But still, Sharma's diligence and perseverance reveal itself in her coping mechanisms.
"Oh my gosh, I don't get this stuff," she thought on arrival at Emory.
Overwhelmed and confused by the onslaught of new information, Sharma devoted her research to one particular topic -- SDS-PAGE, which is essentially making a gel to separate cells for research. Internet research helped her reduce the complex task to simple terms.
"I could make a gel in my sleep now," Sharma said.
Diabetes drug research
Sharma helped research the effects of Metformin, a diabetes drug, on breast cancer. The team found that the drug actually increased the proliferation of cancer cells, which not only eliminated Metformin as a potential cancer treatment, but also discovered a new correlation that could help future patients.
While working with expensive micro liters, where one wrong drop could alter an entire experiment, Sharma exercised her powers of perspective. "You just have to go with it and see your results."
Although she chose a specialty for those six weeks, Sharma was also involved in all other parts of the research. "I did everything, from start to finish."
Post-doctoral graduates led the session. "They were really good mentors," Sharma said. "They were patient and answered all my questions."
This year is Sharma's last in high school, and she's excited for the freedom college will offer. "You can be yourself," she said.
She would like to return to Georgia eventually, perhaps to study at Emory, but for now plans to stay in Arizona for two years before transferring.
"I really want to go to the East Coast, especially Emory. It's one of my goals now."
Hometown: Rewari, India
Age: 17 years
Occupation: High school student.
When did you move to Payson and what brought you here? I moved to Payson two years ago and the reason we moved was because my mother got a teaching job at the high school.
What's the biggest risk you've taken recently? I went on this sky hike course in Georgia and it went up to 40 feet high. And even though I had a safety harness around me it was still pretty challenging and risky.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given? Don't give up!!!!
Three things you want people to know about you. I like meeting new people and I love my parents and I love the outdoors.
When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
Oh gosh! I wanted to be everything; it changed every day. I wanted to be a teacher, doctor, model/actress, etc. It actually depended on the show I watched on TV.
Book: "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Kosseini
Song: I love music so it's hard to choose.
Food: Oh that's easy!! Indian
Sport to watch: Basketball
Vacation spot: Hong Kong, even though the weather sucks!!! It's still beautiful.
Recreational activity: I love to read books!!