Christine Carico will spend a year researching brain disorders in the Pauletta and Denzel Washington family gifted scholars program in neuroscience.
Carico has always had a thing for science. But her passion for biology really took off one fateful day in 2003.
"I remember it vividly," the 22-year-old undergraduate at U.C. Los Angeles says of the day her father Mark Carico began to spasm violently while he drove her to pick up some take-out food one evening. "I had no idea what was going on."
Carico, then 12 years old, had witnessed her father having a grand mal seizure. Fortunately, he did not lose control of the vehicle, and the car simply came to a rest along the side of the road. Unfortunately, the seizure was triggered by a malignant brain tumor.
It was an anaplastic astrocytoma — the same type of cancer that had killed Carico's grandfather and would ultimately take her father's life as well. He died in 2007, four years after his diagnosis.
"After my dad was diagnosed, I wanted to make an impact in the field," Carico said, explaining that she had been drawn to biology and neuroscience at an early age, but that her father's disease served as a catalyst in her decision to pursue a career as a neurosurgeon.
Carico grew up near Mountain View High School on the border of Mountain View and Los Altos. She liked soccer as an adolescent and eventually coached younger children when she was a teen.
She said that she discovered her love of science when she was in seventh grade and that a biology honors class during her sophomore year made her realize she might want to pursue a career in medical science.
At the same time she was stoking her passion for science, taking classes at Mountain View High, she was also working at the Cleary Lab at Stanford University, where she helped scientists do research on leukemia. Her father died halfway through her year at the Cleary Lab.
Carico went on to study neuroscience at UCLA where she is just a few units shy of graduating with a bachelor's degree. She plans to finish up after the Cedars-Sinai fellowship and then apply to medical school.
The aspiring surgeon said she is "very excited" to be in the neuroscience fellowship, where she is working on patient-centered research, treatment modalities, genomics research and analysis of brain tumor patient outcomes.
If all goes according to plan, the Mountain View native will go on to split her time between performing brain surgery and doing research on brain cancer so she might contribute to better treatment methods and maybe, just maybe, find a cure, she said.