Teachers Key In Setting Student On Biotech Path

People sometimes look at Teresa Ramirez with wide eyes when they find out she comes from Compton. The city south of Los Angeles is not the hometown that many expect to turn out a biotechnology fellowship winner who's doing research at the National Cancer Institute before applying to medical school. In Compton, Ramirez was grazed with a bullet when a junior high school classmate dropped a gun he had brought on campus. Some of her classmates joined gangs, and some have already died. She faced skepticism when she said she wanted to be a doctor. "I came across people, even the priest at my church, who said, 'I don't think you're smart enough to be a doctor.' '' But in the Compton schools she also found teachers who set her on her path -- urging her to enter a project in the science fair, apply for a summer enrichment program and go to college. "If it wasn't for those people that helped me, maybe I would not have learned of those opportunities,'' she said. It's a story the biotechnology industry wants to see repeated, as it tries to generate widespread interest in biotech careers among young people. Ramirez was chosen in 2003 for the Minority and Indigenous Fellows Program of the Biotechnology Institute, an educational offshoot of biotech's major trade association, the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

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