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PHS Students Study Cancer in Clams

Two Portland High School juniors,Harriet Mishkin and William Guerin, are already contributing to real-world scientific data. Under Dr. José Fernandez Robledo of Bigelow Labs, the students participated this school year in an experiment to test for the presence of transmissible neoplasia (cancer) in Mya arenaria, soft-shell clams from the Scarborough marshes. So far, they have found polluted water as a potential catalyst.

Each week, students drew blood from the posterior abductor muscle of the clam and analyze it under the microscope to discern the presence of leukemic cells. PHS science teacher Caroline Patrie has been also mentoring the students.

The internship would not be possible without Harbor Fish providing the samples and the University of Maine for lending their inverted microscope.

This is just one of more than 50 internships this year at Portland High as part of the Extended Learning Opportunities (ELO) program, directed by Andrea Levinsky, PHS ELO coordinator. Other new partnerships this year include internship opportunities with Vis Wealth Partners, CMA Engineers, Portland Pottery, Cheval Restaurant, Irwin Morris Law Firm, Bailey Renee Fashion and the University of Southern Maine Computer Science Department. Students complete 40-hour internships over the course of the school year for elective credit.

Students or businesses interested in getting involved in the internship program are invited to contact ELO Coordinator Andrea Levinsky at