Jacqui Dodd couldn't help but like the mice she worked with at the Mayo Clinic last summer. Dodd, one of five Stewartville High School seniors who completed mentorships at Mayo during summer vacation, studied diabetic mice while working at Mayo's renal artery research lab. "They're the cutest things I've ever seen," she told the School Board at a meeting two weeks ago. At the lab, doctors study vascular systems and work on how to make kidney transplants more efficient and effective. Dodd was grateful that she had the opportunity to perform surgery herself. "By myself I did three surgeries, or procedures," she said. "You have to get a little tiny needle into the aorta. I had trouble differentiating between the aorta and the superior vena cava." Dodd said that the lessons she learned from two specific classes at Stewartville High helped her at Mayo. "I would have struggled a lot more with this if I hadn't taken anatomy and some biology," she said. She called the mentorship "a great opportunity." "I feel like I learned a lot," she said. "I was really grateful." She says that at one point she thought about becoming a doctor, but now she's leaning toward a career as a nurse anesthetist. Riley Paulson studied asthma and pulmonary hypertension in Mayo's anesthesiology research lab. She assisted with several protein assays and western blot experiments to learn the effects of proteins and hormones on pulmonary functions. Part of her work included studying the effects of sex hormones on smooth muscle. "They're working toward curing asthma using estrogen," she said. Paulson said she learned that she wouldn't like doing research every day. "It's tedious," she said. "The samples are frozen, and you have to wait for them to thaw every day...Research takes patience. There's a lot of waiting." Like Dodd, Paulson said that the lessons she learned from her classes at Stewartville High helped her during her mentorship. "I would have been lost if I hadn't taken anatomy and chemistry," she said. Paulson said she's looking forward to majoring in kinesiology and exercise science in college. Sheila McNeill, curriculum director for the Stewartville School District, said that five Stewartville students took mentorships at Mayo this past summer, including Dodd and Paulson. The others were: Jennifer Zabinski, who worked in Mayo's simulation lab. Anne Weston, who worked in Mayo's cardiology research lab. Sam Edge, who worked in the Mayo Historical Unit on the third floor of the Plummer Building. "All five of our students had very unique experiences," McNeill said. "We're very appreciative of the opportunities our students have had." Students in the mentorship program have the opportunity to apply some of the fundamental knowledge and skills they have obtained in their science and math courses to real-life, hands-on experiences in the medical field, McNeill said. "The mentorships allow students who may be interested in a future health care-related career to work side-by-side with experts at Mayo Clinic, and they obtain individualized first-hand knowledge, skills and experiences," she said. "Successfully completing a mentorship at Mayo Clinic while being a high school student is a powerful and substantial accomplishment." McNeill said she's proud of the students who commit to the program during the summer. "And (I'm) very grateful to Mayo Clinic for their willingness to share the time and talents of their staff with our students," she said.