Oscar Camargo may only be a junior in college, but he already has something that could make many graduate students jealous: He’s listed as a co-author on a research paper published in the scientific journal “Frontiers in Oncology.”
Camargo started at Valencia College as a dual enrollment student – only a year after moving to the U.S. from Venezuela at age 17. After graduating from Osceola High School in Kissimmee, he continued his studies at Valencia, where he earned an Associate in Arts degree and an Associate in Science in biotechnology laboratory sciences.
“In Venezuela, I wanted to study medicine. I really like anatomy and things like that. I was interested in surgery maybe,” he says. “So at the end of my first year at Valencia, I decided to double major — with AA in general studies and AS in biotechnology sciences — because after Valencia, I wanted to be able to enter the work field and see if I like biomedical field.”
Of course, Oscar didn’t just jump into Valencia’s biotechnology laboratory sciences program – which is taught at Valencia’s Lake Nona Campus – without investigating it first. “I was researching on the VC website, all the types of degrees that Valencia offered, and the description was interesting because it allows you to work entry level jobs for biology. Those are the same type of jobs that people with bachelor’s degrees in biology are taking.”
And, indeed, his work toward an A.S. degree in biotechnology lab sciences opened doors for him at UCF – while he was still a student at Valencia. Thanks to a Valencia internship program supported by the National Science Foundation, Oscar landed an internship with Dr. Annette Khaled of UCF’s Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, and worked alongside researchers from UCF, Nemours Children’s Hospital and the Veterans Administration, studying the role of proteins in neuroblastoma, the most common cancer found in children under one year old.
To his surprise, his work in Khaled’s lab helped land him on the pages of “Frontiers in Oncology,” where he was credited as a co-author of the paper.
“I wasn’t sure If I was going to be listed as an author,” he says. “I didn’t know until I saw some drafts. I was really happy; I was really glad. My experience working with them, they gave me the opportunity to be a co-author.”
Now 21 years old and a junior at the University of Florida, Oscar is studying engineering and hopes to focus on bioinformatics, studying algorithms that connect biology and computer science. “My dream would be to be a scientist or researcher, either in a company or in academia,” says Oscar.
We’re betting we’ll see him in a lab coat one day.