It's not the typical summer volunteer stint. Those who dare must have the stomach for it. But for Jesse Stacey, 16, spending a couple of days a week working in the pathology lab at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point was just another step on the path to becoming a forensic scientist — just like the kind you might see on CSI.
Of course, work in the hospital lab, where Jesse spent the bulk of his time handling clerical duties, is a little less exciting than solving murder mysteries.
Even so, Jesse was "polite, enthusiastic and energetic," said Paula Stanjeski, supervisor of histology. "And he's very smart — definitely very smart."
Medical director and pathologist Dr. Mark McMullen admits it wasn't necessarily an adrenaline rush. "He's done the mechanical part, the boring clerical part," he said, "but he's also seen what we do."
That real-life experience was the highlight for Jesse, who had the opportunity to observe professionals at work in the "gross" room, where various specimens or biopsies — breast, colon, lung — are brought in from the operating room and outpatient surgery to be prepared for classification.
"A lot of people don't like blood and guts, but he had no problem at all with that," McMullen said.
Science has always been a passion for the Ridgewood High senior, who last year was the only high school student in the county to land a top score of 5 on the science portion of the FCAT.
"It's been my favorite subject ever since I can remember," said Jesse, who was in the gifted program at Fox Hollow Elementary and attended middle school at Dayspring Academy.
"I like the problem solving," Jesse said. "I like the mystery behind trying to figure things out."
And sometimes grossing his family out with his tales of the lab, said his mom, Heidi McKellen.
Also on Jesse's summer agenda were family fishing trips. He played guitar and rode the roller coasters at Busch Gardens.
He hit the books as well, taking time to tutor a youngster in math and enroll in an algebra course at Pasco-Hernando Community College. If all goes as planned, Jesse will earn both his associate's degree and his high school diploma in the spring of 2010.