Gatton students win prestigious honor

Gatton Academy juniors Makenzie Daniels, (left) of Edmonson County and Haley Dicken, (right) of Russell County have each been awarded the Emperor Science Award with a university-level science mentorship for cancer research. Both students have had family members affected by cancer which inspired their choices to pursue oncology. “For me, it’s just one of the first steps towards my career because I’ve alway been interested in the field of oncology,” said Dicken, whose niece was diagnosed with cancer as a young child. “It’s really sad but it really inspired me to try to help. I hope to make a difference.” “There’s a specific gene that runs in my family for breast cancer and there’s a possibility that I actually have it. I want to do research on that specific gene so that I’d know more about it so I’d be educated instead of being scared about it,” said Daniels, whose grandmother died from the disease. “It naturally worries me but studying it is actually going to help me, I feel like.” Leanora Benkato/HERALD

Carly Mathews

Two Gatton Academy students are the first in Kentucky to have been awarded the Emperor Science Award.

The award is given to students interested in careers in the scientific and medical fields, specifically in cancer research, to be mentored by an active researcher. Haley Dicken and Makenzie Daniels are the only Kentucky residents to receive the award.

Haley Dicken is a 16 year old first-year Gatton student from Russell Springs. Dicken will be learning from Dr. Natasha Kypriano, a urologic researcher at the UK’s Medical Center and professor at the University of Kentucky’s Markey Cancer Center.

Dicken has an interest in the field of oncology, specifically pediatric oncology, which is why she applied for the research internship. Dicken holds pediatric oncology close to her heart, as her niece went through cancer herself.

“It’s really hard to see someone you love go through that, and it’s a big part of why I’m interested,” Dicken said.

Dicken hopes that this opportunity will open doors for her in her future plans.

“I’m really grateful for this opportunity,” Dicken said. “It will definitely be something to help me learn, but I hope it can also help me to come back and help the communities around me as well. Hopefully this will be something that my community and others will be able to benefit from.”

Makenzie Daniels is the second student from the Gatton Academy to receive the Emperor Science Award. Daniels is from Smiths Grove and is also a 16 year old first-year student.

Daniels will be traveling to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to work with Dr. Shannon Puhalla, the director of the Breast Cancer Clinical Research program and assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Daniels is no stranger to conducting research, as she is a student researcher in the WKU biology department’s Genome Discovery and Exploration Program.

“The research aspect of the medical field is something I really enjoy,” Daniels said when asked about future plans. “I’m used to the hands on approach, and it’s something I’d like to continue in a career.”

Daniels also has a special connection to the research program: her grandmother was a carrier of the same gene of breast cancer that she will be researching.

“For me, this award is more about the cancer research than about the award itself,” Daniels said. “I’m ecstatic for this opportunity.”

Each internship will be 8-12 weeks, ending in June. Both girls will be meeting with their respective mentors over Spring Break to discuss their responsibilities and research in more detail.