Hannah Engebretson Goes From Student to Science STAR

While most Timber Creek students were taking full advantage of their summer vacation, sleeping in and using minimal brain energy, senior Hannah Engebretson was waking up at 5:30 a.m. every weekday, taking a train and multiple shuttles in order to get to her STARS internship at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

When her college counselor mentioned the internship, Engebretson was intrigued, and talked to her AP Biology teacher, Alan Cotten about the proper way to approach the application process.

“I was so excited to talk to Mr. Cotten about my research”, said Engebretson. “[Cotten] has made such an impact on my life my life through his teaching, so I couldn’t wait to teach him something in return.”

Though there were 51 accepted applicants, they were all assigned to take on different tasks, from blocking pain receptors pertaining to opiate withdrawal, to zebra finch sound mimicry.

As for Hannah, she worked on a drug trial that “targeted kidney tumor angiogenesis.” She explained that she was essentially testing a drug that is supposed to stop a tumor from creating new blood supplies.

According to Engebretson, she cannot speak further on her research, as it has not yet been published.

While attending her internship, Engebretson’s living arrangement also made for an interesting experience. Living in a one-bedroom AirBnb in Irving with your entire family, two eighty-pound dogs and a lizard may not sound like an ideal summer experience, but for Engebretson, it was all worth it.

“[The apartment] was in a very convenient location, because it was close to the train, and I really liked the train. It made my entire experience much easier,” she said.

As she continued to gaze at the bright side of things, Engebretson gave one more positive anecdote about her living situation.

“Our lizard was having the most fun out of any of us,” she notes, “because there were crickets everywhere, at all times, so that was a plus.”

Despite the cumbersome housing debacle, the only seemingly negative statement from Engebretson is that the AirBnb “smelled like PetSmart.”

Engebretson plans on pursuing a career in medicine, and becoming an oncologist, so time at UT Southwestern was an ideal launching pad. Furthermore, her experiences with her father’s medical conditions have opened her eyes to the humanitarian side of healthcare. During the summer of her sophomore year, Engebretson’s father had a seizure in which he was unresponsive for 15 minutes.

“I had always wanted to go into the medical field because I enjoyed science,” she said. “After my experiences with my dad, I really wanted to, so I could help out other families in need one day.”

At the end of term, interns were expected to present posters of what they had accomplished and learned over their time on campus. Engebretson was so proud of hers, that she is hanging it on her wall, mouse-tumor MRI’s and all, color coordinating her room to match it.

Upon being asked about the poster session, she said, “It was such a great hair day.”

Though a promising opportunity, the program sometimes became slightly overwhelming, but a piece of Timber Creek kept her grounded.

“After my first lab meeting, I was overwhelmed because I didn’t know what was going on. When I got back to my desk [at the AirBnb] I immediately started making notecards the ‘Metcalf way’. I used those notecards for the rest of my time at UT Southwestern,” Engebretson stated. “Making them reminded me of Timber Creek and the amazing support network I have here.”

Engebretson is referring to Benjamin Metcalf, a teacher infamously known for his notecards, which she had for both AP World History, and AP European History.

The STARS program lasted two and a half months, leaving Engebretson with much to reflect on.

“My time was amazing,” she said. “I got to meet great people and learn about something I was passionate about every weekday.”

Although the thought of working in a laboratory among well-respected professors seemed daunting, Engebretson stepped up to the challenge. Her discoveries and new experiences outweighed any obstacle that might have stood in her way.

“Set a goal, and don’t let anyone talk you out of achieving it,” Engebretson said. “We all have potential to do great things, but what separates good things from great things is the amount of work we put into achieving them.”

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