When James Shi, a high school graduate and aspiring neurosurgeon, chose a career, he knew there were certain aspects he was looking for in his future job: complexity, the ability to innovate, and most importantly, the ability to interact with people. help out.
His love of math and science and his outstanding track record in the math science program at the Alabama School of Fine Arts led to Shi, a resident of Vestavia Hills, being selected as one of two U.S. Presidential Scholars for the class of 2022 for the state of Alabama.
Each year, the White House Commission of Presidential Scholars selects one female student and one male student from each state based on their academic success, school evaluations and transcripts, community service, leadership, and artistic and technical excellence.
“I am very honored,” Shi said.
He said his passion for math and science started at a young age because both his parents were in the medical field.
“I explored my passions more in high school,” Shi said. “It occurred to me very early on that I really like mathematics and science. I think I stopped taking math competitions in ninth grade. I was still doing it in school, but I’ve toned down the time I spent on it a bit and started really focusing on the science aspect.
During his junior and senior year of high school, he began taking classes related to medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, especially organic chemistry and biochemistry, and mentored health professionals, he said.
In addition to founding the Birmingham Branch of the Alliance of Youth Leaders, a national student-led organization, and teaching math and coaching high school math teams at Booker T. Washington K-8 School for MATHCOUNTS competitions, he does also researching treatments for low-grade gliomas.
“Gliomas are a certain type of brain tumor. They make up about a third of them,” Shi said. “Right now the problem is that once someone is diagnosed with a low-grade glioma, we don’t really know the best way to treat it and then it will inevitably become a high-grade glioma and the patient will unfortunately die.”
For his senior research project as part of the Alabama School of Fine Arts’ math science program, his goal was to create a research model for low-grade gliomas so that doctors can test specific treatments for them, he said.
“I had a small part in this,” Shi said. “One type of low-grade glioma, called an astrocytoma, has three main mutations that define it, and I’ve worked with one of these mutations. Essentially, I determined in the lab what the best method is to replicate this mutation in a model.”
One of the motivations for Shi’s research and interest in neuroscience came from a friend who died of a brain tumor at age 13, he said.
Shi will attend the University of Alabama at Birmingham this fall in their Early Medical School Acceptance Program, which admits 15 students with guaranteed acceptance to UAB’s Heersink School of Medicine. He said he is also continuing his research on low-grade gliomas at university, as well as part of a research lab during his undergraduate studies.
He said that when he joins UAB, he hopes to be admitted to their Ph.D. program so that he can pursue a PhD in neuroscience.
“I need to help someone in my future job,” Shi said. “I really believe in personal contact, helping others and changing their lives. As a neurosurgeon, as I’d like to be, I feel like that would be a great way for me to be able to influence people.”