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Sarah Shirley from Little Rock Central High selected as an Emperor Science Award Winner

Posted 13 Jun 2017

The Arkansas Educational Television Network has announced Sarah Shirley of Roland, who will be a junior at Little Rock Central High School this fall, as one of 100 award recipients for the second year of PBS LearningMedia's and Stand Up To Cancer's Emperor Science Award program. The initiative is designed to encourage high school students to explore careers in science, specifically cancer research and care, through a unique mentoring opportunity.

'I am truly honored to represent Arkansas as a recipient of the Emperor Science Award,' Shirley said. 'Cancer is extremely detrimental to those affected, and its cure has yet to be found.

'In order to find cheaper and more efficient treatments, more research needs to be conducted to further understand the mechanisms and characteristics of cancer. I am excited to be given the opportunity to work with such an esteemed researcher in order to contribute to the effort of fighting for a cure for cancer.'

Shirley's grandparents suffered from cancer, prompting her to apply for the program. She said she plans to pursue a career in biomedical research and if she were a researcher she would study immunotherapies involving antibodies to target resistant tumors and cancers.

PBS LearningMedia, a digital educational resource library for teachers and students, and Stand Up To Cancer, a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, received nearly 800 applications from eligible 10th and 11th grade students in 44 states. Prominent scientists served as judges and evaluated the students' applications: written essays addressing why scientific research is so important in finding a cure for cancer, what scientific field they would study and why.

'AETN is proud to recognize Sarah Shirley as an Emperor Science Award recipient,' AETN Executive Director Courtney Pledger said. 'Sarah will represent Little Rock Central High, Roland and all of Arkansas as she continues to enhance her knowledge and skills through this one-of-a-kind mentorship program.'

The 100 Emperor Science Award recipients will have an opportunity to conduct research in a lab, virtually or a combination of both, working with an esteemed scientist on a rewarding multi-week cancer research project. They will also receive a Google Chrome computer to enhance their studies and to facilitate mentor access for those students who live at a distance from their mentor's research facility and a $1,500 stipend for expenses. Those entering the program for the first year will have the opportunity to apply for a second year.

Students from rural, suburban and urban communities in 29 states comprise the second class of Emperor Science Awardees. These students demonstrated awareness of emerging developments in cancer treatment, including precision medicine, immunotherapy and epigenetics, and have an impressive range of research focuses and interests, including nanotechnology and engineering, basic cellular biology, gene mapping, bioinformatics, DNA splicing and computational sciences.

The Emperor Science Award Program extends the learning and outreach for the PBS documentary, 'Ken Burns Presents Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies A Film by Barak Goodman.'

The Emperor Science Award Program has been made possible by generous financial support from Founding Donors Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, Bristol-Myers Squibb Company and Novartis. Their support will fund a total of 300 awards through the first three years.

The full list of Emperor Science Award recipients is available at 

Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) raises funds to accelerate the pace of research to get new therapies to patients quickly and save lives now. SU2C, a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, was established in 2008 by film and media leaders who utilize the industry's resources to engage the public in supporting a new, collaborative model of cancer research, and to increase awareness about cancer prevention as well as progress being made in the fight against the disease. As SU2C's scientific partner, the American Association for Cancer Research and a Scientific Advisory Committee led by Nobel Laureate Phillip A. Sharp, PhD, conduct rigorous, competitive review processes to identify the best research proposals to recommend for funding, oversee grants administration, and provide expert review of research progress. 

As America's largest classroom, PBS offers digital content and services for teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade that help bring classroom lessons to life. PBS LearningMedia, a partnership of PBS and WGBH Educational Foundation, is a free and paid media-on-demand service offering educators access to the best of public media and delivers research-based, classroom-ready digital learning experiences to engage students in exploring curriculum concepts that align with National and Common Core State Standards. Nationwide, more than 1.8 million teachers and users have registered access to more than 100,000 digital resources available through PBS LearningMedia. More information is available at

The Arkansas Educational Television Network is Arkansas's only statewide public media network, which enhances lives by providing lifelong learning opportunities for people from all walks of life. AETN delivers local, award-winning productions and classic, trusted PBS programs aimed at sharing Arkansas and the world with viewers through the distinct channels AETN PBS, AETN Create, AETN PBS KIDS, AETN World and AETN AIRS on SAP. AETN depends on the generosity of Arkansans and the State of Arkansas to continue offering quality programming. Additional information is available at AETN is broadcast on KETS (Little Rock), KEMV (Mountain View), KETG (Arkadelphia), KAFT (Fayetteville), KTEJ (Jonesboro) and KETZ (El Dorado).