Summer Student Spotlight: Into the wild for the cure to cancer

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Students at Mississippi’s colleges and universities are having amazing summer adventures that combine education and new social experiences. Mississippi Today will talk with one star student each week, starting today.

Cellas Hayes, student intern in Poland, chopping a 15-year-old mushroom from the Bialowiezia Forest.

Cellas Hayes

Age: 20

Hometown: Ludlow

School: University of Mississippi

How he’s spending the summer: Internship with the International Research Experience for Students (IRES) in Poland

Cellas’ take: “Sometimes, we are engaged only in our lives and our country and we forget that there are millions of other people in the world and they do not live like us, ” said Hayes.

Hayes and three others were selected from a large pool of students across the nation to conduct research in Hajnowka, a city on the border between Poland and Belarus.

“We are mainly attempting to find the compounds that make up mushrooms. Many of them are poisonous, so we have to attempt to isolate the compound from all the toxic things and then send it to more scientists to see if it is possible to manufacture the compound into medicine,” explains Hayes.

“I hope that engaging in this research and its exposure during this internship will help me decide my future career — a medical doctor or a research scientist,” he added.

Students collect plants and mushrooms in the Bialowieza Forest, a preserved natural habitat with many endangered species, including the last of the world’s European bison.

The findings are then transported to the laboratory at Politechnika Institute in Hajnowka and examined.

“My greatest accomplishment here is being able to learn the language. It is completely different from English and very difficult, however, it has grown on me and I will probably continue learning it when I return home,” he said.

What he’s doing for fun: “We visited Sopot and Gdansk, two international travel sites,”  Hayes said. “There were stands everywhere selling the most beautiful amber jewelry I have ever seen.

“The highlight was being able to visit the largest World War II museum in Gdansk. The museum exhibits are amazing and I was supplied information that is far beyond what is taught in textbooks,” he added.