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Medical drama steers Orland Park teen toward career in medicine

Stagg High School senior Melanie DemmOrlPark plans study biomedical genetic engineering. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media

Stagg High School senior Melanie Demma, of Orland Park, plans to study biomedical and genetic engineering. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: May 2, 2013 6:01AM



Melanie Demma has been interested in science since grade school, when she did a science fair project where she tested paper towels to see which one was the best at soaking up water.

“Ever since then, I liked the idea of finding things out on my own in science,” said Demma, now a senior and about to graduate from Stagg High School in Palos Hills. “I just love science so much.”

Her love turned into the idea of pursuing a career in the medical field after her grandfather, Richard Demma I, of Hickory Hills, was injured in a car accident.

“I visited him in the hospital and became interested in helping people injured or helping someone who has a disease that can’t be controlled,” she said.

Demma, 17, said she was fascinated by the heart monitors, intravenous equipment and other high-tech gadgetry in the room that helped doctors monitor her grandfather’s condition when under critical care.

“Seeing that, I looked into more things and found a career called genetic engineering. Before you are born, they go into your genes and get rid of potentially dangerous diseases. I’d really like to do that now,” said Demma, who wants to help people — but doesn’t like the sight of blood.

“I don’t have the stomach for it, so I knew medicine was for me, but I didn’t know what aspect to pursue, so genetic engineering is perfect,” she said.

For college, she’d like to attend Northwestern University, Stanford University, University of Illinois, University of Wisconsin, Purdue University or Washington University in St. Louis. Her plan is to major in biomedical engineering and possibly minor or double major in genetics.

It won’t be easy, but Demma says that academics have always come easy for her. She has a 4.5 grade-point average and earned a 35 on her ACT college-entrance exam. A 36 is the highest score possible.

She is involved in band and drama at school, and has been involved in Relay for Life, Phi Alpha Theta (a national history honor society) and National Honor Society.

In band, she plays the xylophone and percussion, and in marching band, she plays the bass drum. In drama, she is a stage technician, helping backstage and working on the sound team. She’s also a dean’s runner and a guidance runner, passing messages from the school offices to students during the school day.

The Orland Park teen said her parents, Richard II and Cynthia Demma, motivate her.

“They always push me to not just finish things, but give it 100 percent, and that helps a lot,” she said. “Whenever I start things, I have to finish them no matter what, from books to homework assignments. I always finish everything before the deadline.”

She also credits her grandmother, Judy Demma, of Hickory Hills.

“She was a teacher before I was born and she just always pushed me to do my best and get the best grades,” Demma said. “She taught me to learn while studying, not just memorize everything. She got me into doing well in school.”



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