Columbia University Medical Center


Report on the Summer 2006 Activities of SPURS:
A Biomedical Research Program
IN AUGUST 2006 WE COMPLETED THE 5TH EDITION OF SPURS@CUMC: A Biomedical Research Program (formerly known as the “Columbia Summer Research Fellowship Program”)(the “Program”).

We accommodated 13 students: 7 men and 6 women; 6 African-Americans, 4 Hispanics, and 3 others
We expanded to a 2nd college with students from Brooklyn College joining those from Hunter College
We included several new activities, including: a field trip to the Schering-Plough labs in Kenilworth, NJ; an evening tutorial on post-graduate planning and options, with Dr. John Loike; a Philharmonic Concert in the Park; and attendance at a city-wide BBQ for minority summer interns
We again provided an outstanding series of speakers for the students, including: Dean Lee Goldman (on his 3rd day on the job as the new Dean of P&S), Dr. Kenneth Forde, Dean Hilda Hutcherson, Dr. Herman Taylor (the Director of the Jackson (Mississippi) Heart Study), and scientists from Schering-Plough, Merck, and Pfizer.
Seminar series
The Poster Session on August 3 was, once again, a fitting culmination to the work done by the students in their labs over the summer. Even a casual look at the titles of the posters will give you a good idea of the level of the work produced:

- Tumor Immunology
- Antioxidants as a Treatment for Emphysema
- The Effect of Trophic Factors on Transgenic and Non-Transgenic Mice
- Nuclear Receptor Ligands in Advanced Atherosclerosis
- Modulation of a Potassium Channel by ZDHHC8 – A Possible Molecular Mechanism of Schizophrenia
- Safe Cigarettes: An Oxymoron
- Molecular Mechanisms of Dendrite Guidance in Drosophila
- Digital Interface for MRI-OT System
- How Cross Linking is Affected in B Subunits of BKA channels when the C and N Terminals Are Lessened

Poster Session

And, finally, through the efforts of the Columbia Public Affairs and Video Production groups, we were able to produce a video in which Dr. Marks, along with two of the students and a mentor, Dr. Joy Hirsch, tells the story of the Program and gives glimpses of the experience students have each summer
Going forward, our plans for the summer of 2007, all dependent upon raising the necessary funds, are for:

- Expanding the Program from 8 to 11 weeks in response to many requests from students and mentors
- The introduction of a third CUNY senior college as a source of students
- An increase to 20 of the number of students in the Program
- At least one additional field trip to a research lab
- At least one additional social event

Also currently underway is an effort to create a database and contact list of all of the more than 50 students who have passed through the Program since its inception in 20002. With the assistance of the administrative staff at Hunter College, we are well on our way to creating this valuable tool which will allow us to monitor the progress of our students and to gather information about the impact the Program has had on their careers.

Finally, we continue to seek ways in which to stabilize the financial situation of the Program. To this end, we encourage you to share with us any thoughts you may have about how, through endowments or long-term commitments, we might put the Program on sound financial footing for the years ahead.
Once again, we thank you for your continued interest in, and guidance of, the Program and look forward to reporting more exciting good news as we get closer to the Summer of ’07.
In a fitting closing, let us share with you a few of the comments recorded in the students’ and the mentors’ evaluations of the Program this past summer:

The program was so great that I would love to stay much longer.
This program opens undergraduates to the real world, and allows them to build their skills. This will make any applicant suitable for graduate school.
I personally feel that the speakers were fantastic. Each speaker gave advice for graduate school and research and opened one’s mind to explore new possibilities within research. The speakers were an inspiration in not giving up, no matter what obstacles one might face.
The experience and the knowledge that I have gained from this program is a blessing and I would like to see this program continue to give other people opportunities to gain the same experiences and knowledge I have gained.
The program was really beneficial to me. It helped me gain the experience of living in a dorm setting. Furthermore, it strengthened my desire to pursue a scientific carrier.
It really gives students from CUNY an opportunity to work in a positive and competitive environment. It makes you feel that you can reach places and accomplish big things in life. It also gives an opportunity to meet many successful scientists and have them act as a role model.
I thought all the speakers were great. I don’t want to isolate any one speaker because I think each had his/her own remarkable story and research experience or project to bring to the podium. Dr. Joe Alexander talked about his struggles in Alabama in a different way than Dr Hutcherson’s struggles with the South. Even though they were from that same period their stories were very unique. I learnt of Dr. Marks’ research and saw the man behind the man.

I heard great things about the Wednesday morning seminars. The students were always excited to share what they had learned at these sessions with me
In addition, [the student] asked insightful questions to clarify his understanding of the science underlying the experiments. I was impressed with his understanding and inquisitive nature
[The student] had a good opportunity to adapt to our lab, learn some powerful techniques, assist in some important research, and get prepared for the year he will be spending in our lab on an NIH Minority Supplement for Research in the Health Sciences
[The student] had to set up some of the experiments, and to assess several methods before to find out the sound one to perfectly meet the objectives. Nothing was easy, he had to encounter a lot of difficulties, but I think that if the objective was a real immersion in research work it has been absolutely completed.
I support this Program in that it offers the potential to inspire curious and underexposed individuals who otherwise might not have such an opportunity. It’s a good cause. [The student] was a real contributor to the lab and her project provided an important milestone in on-going investigations.
Great program!