News: Teenager gets close to the heart

Published in the August 7 2010 issue of The Edmonton Sun. News

Teenager gets close to the heart

It’s been a heartfelt experience for a local high school student who spent his summer doing heart research.

Edward Spink, 16, has always been interested in learning about the heart.

Since July, Spink has had the opportunity to see and study the organ as part of the Heritage Youth Researcher Summer (HYRS) Program.

“Actually getting to see it up close and out of a body is such a cool experience,” Spink said Friday, after observing an isolated working heart system in a lab at the Heritage Medical Research Centre of the University of Alberta.


“Seeing it with your own eyes, you get a better understanding of the blood flow in and out of the heart … I just find it fascinating.”

Trading in a “normal” teenage summer for hours doing research in a laboratory, Spink said he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“This is such a rare opportunity, if it means giving up my summer, I’ll take it.”

On Friday, the eager science student got a chance to witness an angiogram heart procedure for the first time, one of many firsts experienced throughout the six-week program, including studying the concentration of protein in the heart, separating protein, examining ultrasounds of hearts and more.

This is the 11th year the HYRS program has been running.

Spink is one of 45 students working in labs across the province, and one of 20 specifically at the U of A.


The program is meant to allow students the chance to see what working in a particular field is like, and encourage them to pursue work in that field in the future.

“We aim … to expose students to a career in bio-medical and health sciences so they can at least see what it’s all about before they have to make some decisions about their university,” said HRYS associate manager Marion Hutchins.

And the program has certainly struck close to Spink’s heart. The student, who will be entering Grade 12 at J.H. Picard High School this fall, hopes to study medicine and do heart research as a career.

“I think I’d like to do it for the rest of my life,” he said with a smile. “Maybe I can create something that will save lives one day.”

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