Standout student writes software program for Georgetown cancer lab

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Rose Dennis, a first-generation American who is on track to graduate from Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Dumfries with a 4.35 GPA and an impressive resume, gives credit to her family and her school for what she has accomplished so far.

For starters, the summer after her sophomore year, she wrote software for Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center staff to aid their research of neuroblastoma, a form of cancer primarily found in young children, in the nerve tissue outside their central nervous systems. 

“A lot of people in my family have had illnesses and been sick,” Dennis said. “And I wanted to contribute to others with medical conditions.”

She was drawn to the Georgetown lab's high school internship program since it gave her the opportunity to assist medical researchers.

Although given mundane tasks at first, she soon discovered a way to streamline the research process for the lab’s staff.

“A lot of highly-paid people, such as statisticians with degrees, were spending a lot of time to gather the data,” Dennis said. “The software I made basically takes all of the patient data and puts it into different categories and makes sure it lines up with what they are looking for.”

Academically, her record is sterling, as president of the National Honor Society for her high school she also was a member of five other honor societies: Spanish, art, science, English and math, serving in leadership roles for a majority of them. Dennis was also a Girl Scout and a varsity lacrosse and volleyball player.

In addition to volunteering, including time with the Red Cross lending assistance to disabled military veterans at Fort Belvoir, Dennis’ co-founded P.E.A.C.E., People Embracing All Cultures and Ethnicities, a forum for students to discuss political and cultural issues openly, especially if there are differences of opinion.

“I think it is important to know the other side of an argument so you know where another person is coming from,” Dennis said.

The summer after her junior year, Dennis overrode family members’ concerns about a dengue fever outbreak and volunteered at the Regional Cancer Center in Thiruvanthapuram, India, the capital of her parents’ home state of Kerala.

In contrast to her Georgetown experience, Dennis worked directly with children cancer patients as they underwent treatment. 

“The hours I spent with the children made me realize what was important was not my time with the patients and the happiness it brought me, but the quality of the time that the patients had,” Dennis said.

She intends to study biomedical engineering at the University of Virginia.

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018