August 11, 2010
Summer Undergraduate Researchers Reap Rewards
by Sandra Gray
UMMS Office of Communications
|The 2010 fellows of the Summer Undergraduate Research Program gather in the Medical School Lobby for a group photo.|
“What could be better than UMass Medical School!” exclaimed Clarissa Andre, a junior at Williams College, as she completed her participation in the 2010 Summer Undergraduate Research Program at UMass Medical School. Sponsored by the Office of School Services and funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the UMMS Office of Research, the program provides undergraduate students—especially those who are economically disadvantaged, have disabilities or are from minority groups underrepresented in the field—with structured, hands-on laboratory research experiences with faculty members serving as mentors, role models and advisors. Andre, who explored a variety of internships before selecting UMMS, was one of 34 college juniors and seniors who came from across the country to spend ten weeks conducting state-of-the-art research at a world-class, integrated academic health sciences center.
“Our goal is to provide participants with an in-depth exposure to actual scientific research in the hopes that the excitement, challenge and creativity of the enterprise will convince them to consider research in the sciences as a viable career choice,” said Deborah Harmon Hines, PhD, professor of cell biology and director of the program. The program’s success in stimulating entry into health sciences research careers speaks for itself. Many former summer undergraduate research fellows have returned to all three UMMS graduate schools as students and post-docs, including 2009 School of Medicine graduates Miguel Concepcion, MD, and Michele St. Fleur, MD; Joslyn Cortez, a student in the Graduate School of Nursing’s Graduate Entry Pathway; and Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences post-doctoral fellow Amalene Cooper-Morgan, PhD, and student Zaida Ramirez, who both enjoyed participating in this year's program as mentors.
best summer undergraduate research poster presentations were recognized
at the closing ceremony. From left, program co-director Janet Stein,
PhD; keynote speaker Clifton Poodry, PhD; 3rd place winner Kyle Rumery;
tie for 2nd place winners Jessica Feng and Henrietta Fasanya; 1st
place winner Angela Curcio; program administrator Karen Zirpola-Miller;
and program director Deborah Harmon Hines, PhD.|
Priscilla Riva, a junior at Amherst College, was one of two fellows selected by host Jose Lémos, PhD, professor of physiology and biochemistry & molecular pharmacology, to participate in investigations already underway in his lab. During her work, Riva experienced the thrill of scientific discovery when she uncovered new knowledge about a receptor in the central nervous system on the synapses being studied by the Lémos lab. This kind of “aha” moment was referenced by keynote speaker Clifton Poodry, PhD, director of the Division of Minority Opportunities in Research (MORE) of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, during the closing ceremony.
“When students have lab exposure at the undergraduate level, it helps spark their interest in research and often encourages them to pursue research careers,” said Dr. Poodry, who grew up in poverty on a reservation and described himself as one of just a handful of Native American geneticists. MORE administers research and research training programs aimed at increasing the number of minority biomedical and behavioral scientists.
Prior to the closing ceremony, Poodry attended the program's poster session and chatted with several students, including Kenneth Vera. “Now I know that whatever I do, research will be a part of it,” said Vera, a senior pre-med student majoring in psychology at the University of Florida, Gainesville, who was hosted by UMMS Professor of Psychiatry Jean King, PhD.
Three generations of Vera’s family, including his grandparents, who are natives of Puerto Rico, traveled from Florida to celebrate his achievements as a participant in this program. Inspired as well as proud, Ken’s 18-year-old brother Gabriel said, “My brother is a big role model of mine and I try to emulate the steps he is taking to get where he wants.” Said grandfather Antonio Vera, “I am so proud of him and know he will do great things!”
The weeklong series "Summer Programs at UMMS" continues tomorrow
with a story about a NASA grant-funded program that encourages science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning learning for middle school students and teachers during the summer. To read the
prior story, Local teens find work and more in UMMS summer jobs program, click here.