Working in a nursing home was the spark that led to Benjamin Deatherage’s science project, which was recently awarded the Joseph C. Shipman Award from the Linda Hall Library.
Deatherage, a senior at Shawnee Mission West High School, saw how neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s can steal the quality of life from older people. He developed his project, “The Construction of Chaperonin Dimers Using Biotinylated GroEL and Streptaridin Scaffolds,” in which he worked to create complexes for proteins with folding defects to make them easier to manage during research. In effect, Deatherage worked to pad the proteins to make them easier to work with and allow them to be packaged in kits for easier use by researchers.
The project earned Deatherage the $500 prize awarded by the Library for the Shipman Award, named after the first director of the Linda Hall Library of Science, Engineering & Technology. Each year, to honor Mr. Shipman’s legacy of devotion to science, a cash award is given to a student whose mastery of scientific writing is demonstrated in a paper or science project.
Deatherage’s project was part of the curriculum in Shawnee Mission School District’s Biotechnology Signature Program. Deatherage is in his third year of the program, which introduces approximately 110 students from across the district to biotechnology and helps them develop laboratory skills and research techniques. As part of the program, Deatherage was able to work on his project with Dr. Mark Fisher, a biochemistry and molecular biology professor at KU Medical Center, and Pierce O’Neil and Alex Machen, two graduate assistants who supervised the experiment.
“Without being involved in the Biotechnology Signature Program, I wouldn’t have been able to work the KU Medical center people or do this project,” Deatherage said.
Brenda Bott, who runs the Biotechnology Signature Program, also received a $500 prize. She said winning the award was a complete surprise, and she was honored to be recognized for her team’s coordination of research, schedules, biochemistry lessons, and editing. Bott is proud of Deatherage’s accomplishment and what he learned during the process of his research.
“He completed very high-level research for his age,” Bott said. “Ben’s ability to think critically and analyze data are well beyond the ability of a 12th grade student.
Deatherage will attend the University of Kansas in the fall. He plans to apply his prize money toward college and study “something involving the sciences.”