Columbia University Medical Center


Report on the Summer 2007 Activities of SPURS:
A Biomedical Research Program

We accommodated 13 students: 5 men and 8 women; 8 African-Americans, 3 Hispanics, and 2 others
We expanded to a 3rd CUNY college with a student from Queens College joining those from Brooklyn College and Hunter College
We included several new activities, including: a field trip to the Merck labs in Rahway, NJ; a session on the Graduate School application process; a visit to Yankee Stadium; a mentoring session with students from Columbia’s Medical and Graduate schools – MD, PhD, and MD/PhD candidates; and, perhaps most notably, a mentoring session with 7th and 8th graders in the Lang Medical Program at Presbyterian Hospital where, many for the first time, our SPURS students were the mentors!
We again provided an outstanding series of speakers for the students, including: Dean Lee Goldman, Dr. Kenneth Forde, Dean Hilda Hutcherson, former Mayor of New York City David Dinkins, Dr. Joy Hirsch, Director, fMRI Research Center, Dr. Andrew Marks, Dr. Lyndon Mitnaul from Merck Labs. Our special, surprise guest speaker for the students was Whoopi Goldberg who talked about her life and career and asked many probing questions about the projects the students were working on.
The Poster Session on August 2 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:

-Separate Mechanisms for Feature and Spatial-based Attention in Human Vision.

-Making Knockout Mice of Microrna by the Technique of Recombineering

-Effects of Chronic Stress on Cognitive Function

-Expressing The Candida Albicans Transcription Factor Cas5 In E.Coli

-Purification of Two Voltage-Gated Na+ Channel Fragments

-Enhancing Phagocytic Clearance of Apoptotic Cells in Atherosclerosis

-Startle Probe and the Perception of Cues of Rejection

-Study of the Interaction of Ryr2 and Its Regulatory Protein Calstabin 2

-Identifying Interactions between BK Channel _ and _-2 Subunits

-Trio Effects on Dendritic Arborization in the Fly Peripheral Nervous System

-A Pathway that Reduces Inflammation in Smoke-Induced Emphysema

-Functional Characterization Of Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) In Human IBP

-Identifying Those Cysteines which When Nitrosylated Affect the Ability ff FKBP12 to Bind to Ryr1

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 2008, all dependent upon raising the necessary funds, are for:

- The introduction of a fourth 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

In a fitting closing, let us share with you a few of the comments recorded in the students’ evaluations of the Program this past summer:

"I had an outstanding, supportive mentor who provided me with a project that taught me a complete array of important lab techniques in the span of 8 weeks, truly an impressive feat. I worked with a group of scientists that made every single day of my lab experience exciting and worthwhile. I honestly walked out of the lab each and every day with some new knowledge that only made me want to come back again the next day to learn more and to satisfy my desire to learn.

"I am eternally grateful for everything you have done for us, and if there is any way that I can help you with anything for the program, or anything at all, please don’t hesitate to ask."

"From the time spent in the lab I feel like I have learned more in those two months than I usually do in an academic year."

"All the guest speakers together provided the most positive element of my summer experience. Together they helped paint a picture of what it is like in the real world, and what it takes to get where I need to be.

" . . . it is a great program. It was extremely helpful. The activities and seminars are great and were enriching. I thought the program is very well run and organized . . .

"The most positive element of my time in the lab was . . . people. It was such a diverse group of people and everyone was willing to teach, assist, answer questions, and challenge me. Also, I loved that my opinion mattered and I was able to participate in the design of experiments. Prior to joining the lab I thought I would be intimidated by all of the post-docs and doctors. However, once I got to the lab they really made me feel welcome and encouraged me to “think like a scientist.

"This program really is great in that it gives young scientists an opportunity to see their future. It’s very encouraging when you can sit and speak with people of a similar background, who also have a passion for science, and know that they were you 30 years ago. Also, this program gives students a chance to conduct research without the added stress of a full semester course load. So they really get to enjoy the research.

It is a wonderful experience, one totally different from that you get from the small colleges that all of the participants of this program are from. It also allows for individual growth in terms of understanding yourself better and narrowing down one’s interests and passions in terms of a career path.