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Prof Nurtures Prodigy

Teen’s research explores dengue secrets.

Story by Laura Cech • Photography by Chris Hartlove

Even seasoned researchers get nervous presenting work to Johns Hopkins scientists. But high school student Carly Crump was remarkably calm when she spoke to Rhoel Dinglasan’s lab.

“She was never intimidated by us,” says Dinglasan, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology. “But she also wasn’t entitled. She took criticism. She wanted to learn.”

As a high school freshman, Crump became interested in West Nile virus after her uncle contracted it. Then the Florida teen came across a Popular Science article on Dinglasan’s use of proteins to block malaria transmission. After she e-mailed him, the scientist and teen began a two-year correspondence that led to an unprecedented collaboration on dengue virus research.

Dinglasan gave Crump direction via Skype and put her in touch with a University of Florida colleague to learn some basics. Crump spent the past two summers in Dinglasan’s lab, investigating how the dengue virus exits and spreads from an infected mosquito cell.

“We let the data tell us what to do next,” says Crump.

The pair soon will submit a study for publication, potentially contributing to the creation of a new dengue vaccine. First authorship would go to Crump.

In addition to a full scholarship to the University of Florida, Crump has won $29,000 from six competitions as a result of the project done in Dinglasan’s lab. She also will attend the Nobel Prize ceremony in Sweden in December and present her research as part of a youth science award. 

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