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Britni Lonesome

Teen researcher seeks better way to treat tuberculosis

When you were younger, did you want to grow up to find the cure for a disease or help millions of people find comfort? At 18 years of age, Britni Lonesome of Baltimore, MD did just that. She worked on a way to help tuberculosis patients take less medicine. She helped find a way for them to take one kind of medication over three months instead of the four pills they now swallow every day for up to nine months! Read more about what she does every day to make the world (and herself) a healthier place!

How old are you?


Where do you live?

Baltimore , MD

What grade are you in?

A freshman in college

Tell us how you started with the research program at Johns Hopkins?

I began this research through a course at my high school called Research Practicum. Students were given the opportunity to conduct research at a local institution four days a week for at least ten hours, sometimes more. I already knew that I wanted to work in a chemical engineering lab on research that really had an impact on people. My teacher introduced me to a professor who oversaw a chemical engineering lab that was working on drug delivery for various diseases. We met a few times and he paired me with a graduate student who introduced me to this particular research on implants for tuberculosis.

What did it feel like to get all of that publicity—like articles about you in the newspaper—when you helped find a better way to treat tuberculosis?

It felt really good—not because I was getting the attention, but mostly because people were recognizing our research and the effect that it could have on tuberculosis patients. I was happy that the experiments were working and producing positive results.

Britni working in the labHow are you still involved with research and what is your typical day like when you’re in the lab?

Right now, I oversee a girl from my high school who is going through the same course and who was also actually on my basketball team. Because I don’t have nearly as much time as I had in high school, she is working on an initial phase of a bigger project that I will continue over the next four to five years as an undergraduate student. So, right now I’m not in the lab as much. I go in two to three times a week and show her different lab techniques and explain the project.

Have you always been interested in science? Why?

I haven’t always been interested in science. And I’m really not all that interested in science now except for chemistry. My interest has always been in math and engineering. I was always good in math and I enjoyed different engineering programs and internships that I have participated in like MESA and Northrop Grumman’s WORTHY program. Chemical Engineering is more about engineering and mathematics than it is about science.

What advice would you give other girls on how to get involved with science and research?

It is very important to get to know your guidance counselor. They are there to get students involved in different programs and give them opportunities outside of the classroom. If it wasn’t for my guidance counselor, I wouldn’t have known about the program with Northrop Grumman, which ended up making a big difference in my life. I also would not have known about the other programs and scholarships that helped me along the way. It is also very important to go the extra mile while in high school. Don’t slack off during your junior and senior years like many people do. Instead, you should take advanced placement classes, get involved with clubs and organizations, and do your best to prepare yourself for college. You are the key to your future.

Britni working in the lab

What is college like? Do you think it’s a lot different than high school?

College is a lot different from high school. One, there is more freedom, which can hurt you or help you. Two, the teachers, well actually, professors, don’t really teach you like the teachers do in high school. In college, it’s all about teaching yourself and grasping the concepts in your own way. You don’t spend a lot of time in class, so the professors expect you to do all the studying and learning on your own. Also, being successful in college is all about studying and time management, whereas in high school, I hardly ever studied but I still got As and A +s in my classes. In college, that will almost never happen. But on a social level, college is really rewarding because it is where you meet people from all parts of the world and build networks and friendships that will last forever.

What kinds of things do you do to stay healthy?

I play on the Johns Hopkins women’s basketball team, so that keeps me very healthy. We do an intense workout six days a week for at least two hours a day, so I am very much in shape. Also, I eat the right things to stay healthy and keep my body in the best condition.

What do you want to do when you graduate from college?

After I graduate from the combined bachelor’s/master’s program, which will hopefully be in five years, I plan to work in the industry as a chemical engineer for a big company like DuPont, Pepsi, or Proctor and Gamble. Eventually, I want to begin my own chemical engineering company. Depending on how this research goes, my company may be involved with mass development of these polymeric implants.

Content last reviewed November 01, 2006
Page last updated November 01, 2006

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health.