Piscataway Girl Develops Passion For Biochemistry

Courtney Harris

Courtney Harris

PISCATAWAY—What started out as administrative work and advisory at Johnson & Johnson, turned into an unforgettable and impacting internship for Courtney Harris of Piscataway, a senior at The Wardlaw-Hartridge School in Edison.

Last year, Dr. Joseph M. Ferro, Worldwide Corporate Medical Director at the Johnson and Johnson Corporate Medical Department in New Brunswick, learned about Courtney Harris of Piscataway, a senior at The Wardlaw-Hartridge School in Edison, after reading a “Meet Your Neighbors” article that was published in The Star-Ledger in November 2006.


Dr. Ferro offered Harris an internship that consisted of her researching the rise of Vitamin D deficiency and the current devastation of Vitamin D deficiencies internationally.

“I was extremely flabbergasted and pleased to accept,” she said.

“During the first week and a half, I researched every single detail of Vitamin D. I learned that when the sun hits our bodies to create a cholesterol compound, a group of activation levels are set off and are triggered to permeate and influence different parts of our system, like the calcium in our bones,” explained Harris. “Moreover, I learned about the many other sources that exist in order to achieve optimal levels of this vitamin.”

Harris also studied how Vitamin D impacts heart disease, cancer, and standard good health. “Furthermore, I was constantly updated on its deficiency,” she said, “especially among the overweight and African-American popularity in America and its proven alleviation of minor maladies. Once the research was completed, I spent the rest of the time using my knowledge to analyze all of the patients’ paperwork, and with that, how their Vitamin D levels affected their current state of health. This study even included the nurses, who were put on a Vitamin D supplement experiment by Dr. Ferro. Finally, after months of analysis, I created an Excel document to store all of my data for later research.”

Dr. Ferro said, “Courtney’s computer skills exceeded our expectations in analyzing the data based on age, outdoor activity, indoor activity and the month the test was done. She enthusiastically embraced the project and provided us daily with updates on research studies we weren’t aware of.”

When asked how the internship prepared her to lead and succeed in her field of interest, Harris said, “I indubitably believe that this internship not only opened my eyes to the many possibilities of the science world, but it also reassured my interest in and curiosity of biochemistry. The whole staff was an absolute delight to work with, especially the nurses, and with their guidance and friendship I was able to accomplish my task with ease. Therefore, I certainly do feel proud and more prepared to continue in the researching field of science and medicine.

Courtney is the daughter of Edward A. and Belita E. Harris of Piscataway.

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