Toxin Center shows high school students their snake side

Toxin Center shows high school students their snake side

Viper day 2015, hosted by the National Natural Toxins Research Center, gave the opportunity to students from local high schools to learn about research that is done here at Texas A&M University-Kingsville.

The purpose of Viper Day is to make evident the importance of teaching through biomedical research and also to spread the word that TAMUK plays a central role in providing quality education for students.

The visiting students were warmly welcomed by TAMUK’s president Dr. Steven H. Tallant.

“I want each and every one of you in this room to go to college,” Tallant said.

He told students that he would be very pleased if they enrolled at TAMUK.

“I’d love for each and every one to be a Javelina, as this is a great university,” Tallant said. “But if you don’t come here and you choose to go elsewhere, I support that.”

The Keynote presentation was given by Dr. Gonzalo Lopez, a TAMUK Alumni and former NNTRC student.

Lopez’s presentation focused on his research on cancer and the treatment of soft tissue sarcoma.

Soft tissue sarcomas can develop from soft tissues like fat, muscle, nerves and they can be found in any part of the body. Most of them develop in the arms or legs or internal organs.

Lopez’s goal was to give the students an overview of where he is at now and discuss the research he has done recently.

“It was great to talk to them and to briefly go over cancer because it’s a very bad disease,” Lopez said. “Statistics are claiming that the incidents of cancer are going up where one in three people in their lifetime will possibly develop cancer.”

Many people inspired Lopez to do what he is doing, but his aunt Grace was definitely his biggest inspiration.

Lopez said that the learning process never stops and that higher education can help on being an expert on whichever particular field you chose to be. That’s why he encourages students to do well in school so they can get into the next advanced program.

“The research experience it’s one of the biggest things that I would recommend to any students that are interested in any future research,” Lopez added.

Dr. Elda E. Sanchez, Co-Director of the NNTRC, said they want to introduce high school students to research.

“We want to expose them to some of the research that our students and research scientists are performing,” Sanchez said.

Students were able to view posters and basically get an idea of campus life. They were given tours of the laboratories and tours of the serpentarium where there are over 450 venom snakes, with an explanation of how they use the venom for medical research.

“We want to encourage them to attain a degree,” Sanchez said. “We try to get them excited about higher education and about obtaining PhDs or getting MDs,” Sanchez said.