A 14-year-old girl disproves a college professor's published theory on racism ... by Googling it.

14-year-old Rebecca Fried wasn't planning to destroy the career of a college professor.

She was just avoiding her homework. As kids do.

One night, Rebecca's father shared an interesting article with his kids, as he often would, in hopes of starting a conversation. This time, it was an academic paper by professor Richard Jensen about the history of Irish discrimination in America — specifically, about how that discrimination had (apparently) never actually happened.


Published in 2002 in the Journal of Social History, Jensen's " No Irish Need Apply: A Myth of Victimization" claimed that, contrary to popular belief, there had never been any recorded instances of newspaper ads or shop signs that said "No Irish need apply" (or "NINA" for short).

Photo by Pattie (not Paddy) via Flickr.

Something about the story struck a chord with Rebecca, and she turned to Google to satisfy her curiosity. Within hours, she'd discovered irrefutable photo proof that Jensen's article was wrong.

At first, Rebecca she thought she was just missing something.

How could a simple Google search disprove an entire academic paper?

There's no way it could have been that easy, right? Sure, there are some shady sources on the Internet. But she'd found the evidence in newspaper archives and libraries.

Image via Wikimedia Commons. Yes, it was that easy to find.

With her father's help, Rebecca reached out to Kerby Miller, a recently retired professor and Irish history scholar.

Miller believed that Jensen's claims were right in line with the anti-Irish propaganda that had spread in the aftermath of the Irish Civil War. In fact, Miller says that when he contacted Jensen after the paper was published, Jensen accused him of being an IRA terrorist due to the fact that Miller had married a Catholic woman.

And if you thought a Ph.D. like Jensen would be able to employ a better comeback than "Well, you must be a terrorist," you'd be wrong.

Photo by Cathal McNaughton/Getty Images

With Miller's help, Rebecca published her own academic rebuttal to Jensen's article.

Her article, titled "No Irish Need Deny: Evidence for the Historicity of NINA Restrictions in Advertisements and Signs," was published in the Oxford Journal of Social History on (fortuitously enough) July 4, 2015. Rebecca thanks Miller in her foreword for his guidance and notes, but as he told the Daily Beast, "She didn't need any help from me on what she did. I'd be surprised if she changed a single word."

And of course, Jensen had to defend himself.

When the news of Rebecca's publication hit IrishCentral.com, Jensen took to the comments section (the best place for serious academic discourse) to defend himself and get a few patronizing jabs in at his adolescent adversary.

The two went back and forth in the comments for a bit, with Rebecca showing her trademark maturity in her responses to him while also pointing out the central flaws in his thesis. Jensen, meanwhile, continued to insist that "No Irish need apply" was the result of mass delusion. But Rebecca rightly pointed out that the burden of proof should lay with him rather than on the collective cultural memory of an entire nation.

Not only did Jensen get the last word in in the comments section (because of course he did), but he's since published a formal rebuttal to her rebuttal as well (because of course he did).

GIF from "In Bruges."

Rebecca's paper shows what we can learn from history and how it's applicable even today.

Did you know that Frederick Douglass wrote in 1846, "No people on the face of the earth have been more relentlessly persecuted and oppressed on account of race and religion, than the Irish people?" (He then went on to say that the Irish are also a bunch of violent drunkards responsible for their own plight. WHOOPS.)

Or did you know that the Irish weren't even considered "white" until the last hundred years? So while you probably won't witness much Irish racism in 2015, the reverberations from that suffering surely still exist.

An actual illustration from a 19th-century scholarly text. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

This fascinating history of discrimination — and of people like Jensen trying to deny it — isn't just relevant to the Irish. It's the classic idea of “those who don't learn history are doomed to repeat it." And it applies in more ways than one.

We all know about the discrimination that many groups of people have endured throughout history. The Holocaust and slavery in America are the obvious examples that come to mind; there's also the Tutsi and the Armenians and indigenous Americans and the #BlackLivesMatter movement happening right now and — I could go on, but I'm gonna stop there before I get too depressed. The point is: It would be wrong to deny the existence of any of these atrocities. Doing so would make us no better than Jensen.

By re-writing (or flat out denying) the shameful facts of discrimination, past or present, we make it easier for the same suffering to happen again and again.

Here's the real "Matrix"-level lesson-within-a-lesson: Being on the right side of history means not denying oppression in the now, as it continues to happen all around us. If instead we study the details of those past struggles, it might help illuminate some important truths about class, race, and power dynamics in the modern world.

In the meantime, we hope that Rebecca can survive the most oppressive part of human history: freshman year of high school.

Good luck, Rebecca. You're gonna need it.

For John Shults and Joy Morrow-Nulton, the COVID-19 pandemic brought more than just health threats and lockdown woes. For the two 95-year-olds, it also held something remarkable—another chance at romance.

Both Shults and Morrow-Nulton had been married twice and widowed twice, but they were determined to find love again. They met in May of 2019, brought together by Morrow-Nulton's 69-year-old son, John Morrow.

"She was cute, I'll tell you that," Shultz told the New York Times of their first meeting. "And she was smart and she had a delightful sense of humor. And she smiled at me."

Shultz asked her to lunch a few more times before it became crystal clear to Morrow-Nulton that he was on a mission to date her.

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For John Shults and Joy Morrow-Nulton, the COVID-19 pandemic brought more than just health threats and lockdown woes. For the two 95-year-olds, it also held something remarkable—another chance at romance.

Both Shults and Morrow-Nulton had been married twice and widowed twice, but they were determined to find love again. They met in May of 2019, brought together by Morrow-Nulton's 69-year-old son, John Morrow.

"She was cute, I'll tell you that," Shultz told the New York Times of their first meeting. "And she was smart and she had a delightful sense of humor. And she smiled at me."

Shultz asked her to lunch a few more times before it became crystal clear to Morrow-Nulton that he was on a mission to date her.

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Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."