Juniors Vincent Lin, Nicolas Lee, Victoria Madej win awards at Memorial Sloan Kettering’s radiology essay contest


Enzo Schulze

The Junior Science Research class takes their radiology essays to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, with three students receiving high recognition for their work.

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What would we do in a world without radiology? In a world without the reliability of x-rays or the accuracy of MRIs? These are questions that the Junior Science Research class addressed in their radiology essays on March 9, for the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC). Students answered the prompt “Imagine a World Without Radiology,” and their essays would be judged by MSKCC for a chance to win a spot at their summer internship and a monetary prize.

Nearly ten years ago, Hedvig Hricak, the Chair of the Department of Radiology Chair at MSK, launched a program that would provide STEM opportunities to students, with an aim to motivate and educate them on careers in healthcare and radiology. As a part of the MSK sponsored event, Radiology: Giving Back to NYC in collaboration with the NYC Department of Education, Townsend Harris was invited to MSK on April 27 to receive information on careers in STEM, attend lectures, and complete hands-on activities in radiology technology. Winners of the essay competition were also announced on this day.

Fifteen awards were distributed in total, three of which were awarded to Townsend Harris students. According to Junior Science Research teacher Katherine Cooper, “Last year was the first year we had students win. We won 6 out of the 15 prizes. This year we won 3 out of 15, so we have a two year streak going.” Junior Vincent Lin received an Honorable Mention Award, which came with a $150 prize and the opportunity to participate in a paid summer internship at MSK. Juniors Victoria Madej and Nicolas Lee each received a Special Honor Award with $100 and the internship opportunity as well. 

When asked about the thought process and content behind their essays, the Harrisites had varying responses. Nicolas Lee said he was inspired by his “own personal experiences” and how he was affected by radiology. “Radiology helped diagnose and treat the cancer for my grandparents and helped them fight this disease. I wrote about how it gave them more time to live and more time for me and my family to spend with them. Time is priceless so I talked about how grateful [I am] this technology existed,” he said. Vincent Lin said that because radiology was a newer concept for him, “it involved a lot of research beyond my prior knowledge of MRI and radiology as a whole.” He used his research to focus on the effect that the forms of radiology had globally and how it advanced over time. Additionally, Victoria Madej said that she aimed to keep her essay “as authentic as possible.” She says, “To achieve this, I decided to recount personal anecdotes that offered a genuine glimpse of the impact radiology can have on a person’s life.” In writing her essay, she started off with the historical background and uses of radiology, and included her interest in becoming a surgeon and the involvement of radiology in her future career.

It was a pleasant surprise for the three of them to see their names projected on screen, acknowledging them for their hard work. They all plan on participating in the internship at MSK, an undeniably unique opportunity. “Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to win so when I heard my name being called up I was so flustered and caught off guard. It was a really special experience and I called my mom as soon as I could to tell her the news,” Nicolas said, recalling the award ceremony. He plans on accepting the internship offer: “I think it’s a great opportunity to dive into the medical field from such an established institution. Though I’ve always had a passion for environmental science, I am always down to try new things and see if this is a possibility for work in the future.” Victoria felt grateful and overjoyed when she won the award. “Being recognized for my hard work has given me a strong sense of pride and shown me that you truly can achieve anything if you set your mind to it,” she said. She is eager to complete the program with more confidence in taking on the challenges that come her way. Vincent, while he wasn’t at MSK to receive his award in person, says, “I am excited for the opportunity to intern at MSK this summer to gain insight into a range of different scientific techniques and learning from veterans in the field of scientific research.”

Writing essays to submit to large contests like this may be intimidating for many students, but the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Ms. Cooper says that the contest is a fantastic opportunity even if students don’t win for their essays. “I especially appreciate the exposure that the program offers. Going to MSK to listen and talk to the people that are involved in radiology can be very inspiring. All students have to do is write an essay, a small ask in comparison to how much MSK gives them in terms of information and opportunities.”

To give future students the best shot at writing their essays, Victoria says to “keep it real and relatable. Make the essays personal, and write about how radiology has affected the people around you and your own life.” Similarly, Nicolas says, “Write something authentic and creative. Even if you don’t have personal experience with radiology, it is always good to entice the reader with descriptive and captivating language.”

Opportunities such as MSK’s essay contest are crucial for students to explore their passions in STEM. It ignites creativity and curiosity, and allows young people to be a part of something that’s significant in communities all over the world. Students are highly encouraged to take part in MSK’s future radiology essay contests as they may offer the experience of a lifetime.