Columbia University Medical Center


Report on the Summer 2008 Activities of SPURS:
A Biomedical Research Program

2008 Students

IN AUGUST 2008 WE COMPLETED THE 7TH EDITION OF SPURS, having assisted nearly 70 students since 2002:

• We accommodated 13 students: 4 male and 9 female; 7 African Americans, 3 Hispanic-Americans, and 3 others from NIH-sponsored programs for under-represented populations.
• We expanded to a 4th CUNY college with students from Queens College, Brooklyn College, Hunter College and, for the first time, City College
• We included, in addition to our annual Bowling Party and Philharmonic in the Park events, several new activities, including:
- a Welcome Reception along with other Columbia programs serving under-represented students;
- a visit to Shea Stadium for a NY Mets game;
- attendance at a performance in Central Park of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline by the New York Classic Theater Company;
- an expanded mentoring session with students from Columbia’s Medical and Graduate schools – MD, PhD, and MD/PhD candidates;
- and, perhaps most notably, we paired up with 7th and 8th graders in the Lang Medical Program at Presbyterian Hospital and invited them to a speaker session and then to an afternoon in the labs. The feedback was terrific!
- also for the first time, we provided our interns with, in addition to the annual Poster Session, the opportunity to make a ten-minute oral presentation on their research projects to the group and Drs. Marks and D’Armiento, who provided valuable feedback. In addition, Dr. D’Armiento presented a “How to Present” session for the students which was one of the high points of the program
- not to mention a great BBQ at Dr. Marks’s home in Westchester County
• We again provided an outstanding series of speakers for the students, including: Dean Hilda Hutcherson, former Mayor of New York City David Dinkins, Dr. Andrew Marks, Dr. Henry Colecraft, Dean Robert “Rocky” Kass, and Vice Provost Geraldine Downey.
• The Poster Session on July 28, attended by over one hundred visitors, 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 demonstrates the level of the work produced:
• Junctional Epidermolysis Bullosa with Pyloric Atresia Caused by a Novel; Mutation in the ITGB4 Gene (Emma Auguste mentored by Dr. Angela Christiano)
• Macrophages Derived from Separate Monocyte Subpopulations Differ in Efficiency of Apoptotic Cell Clearance (Jasmine Blanc mentored by Dr. Ira Tabas)
• Combinatorial Regulation of Gene Expression: Literature and Biochemical validation of predictions generated from the B-Cell Interactome (BCI) (Nikita Brasse mentored by Dr. Andrea Califano)
• The Connectivity of the Brain that Underlies Decision Making (Michelle Bubnik mentored by Dr. Joy Hirsch)
• Exploring the role of dendrite-substrate interactions in the maintenance of dendritic arbors in Drosophilia da neurons (Mandeep Kaur mentored by Dr. Wes Grueber)
• Ribosomal Discrimination of Unnatural Amino Acids (Millicent Olawale mentored by Dr. Virginia Cornish)
• Intramembrane Interactions Between _S0 and _1 TM1 (Asif Rahman mentored by Dr. Stephen Marx)
• Examine the compartmentalization of the enzyme, PP2A when the different regulatory subunit are bound to the Core enzyme (Shaneeza Salim mentored by Dr. Robert Foronjy)
• Lineage tracing of Tbx4 expresssing cells in mice models (Laura Senatus mentored by Dr. Virginia Papaioannou)
• Age Dependent Modulation of Ryanodine Receptor Associated Proteins (Mike Holsey mentored by Dr. Andy Marks)
• Potential Biomarkers to Predict Rapamycin Resistance (Lester Zambrana and Cula Dautrice mentored by Dr. Andrew Marks)
• Modulation of Proteinases and Collogen Expression in Vascular Cells by Cigarette Smoke Components (Sandra Pirela mentored by Dr. Jeanine D’Armiento)

poster session

• Going forward, our plans for the summer of 2009, all dependent upon raising the necessary funds, include:
- The introduction of a fifth CUNY senior college as a source of students
- An increase to 15 of the number of students in the Program
- At least one field trip to a Pharmaceutical research lab
- A closer coordination with the Lang Medical Program, including more visits and more one-on-ones: extending the “pipeline”
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 additional exciting good news as we get closer to the Summer of ’09.
• 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:
“[The Program] exposes students to the rigorous environment common to research laboratories as well as the mindsets of researchers who speak to the highest standard of excellence. It introduces them to opportunities that they may not have found on their own. Also by bringing together students with a similar trajectory, it makes each student feel more conformable knowing that they are others like them.”
“The program is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I am so glad I was fortunate to be given. In addition to being in the lab, my favorite memories are of going to the baseball game (it was my first time ever) and attending the Philharmonic (I really enjoy classic music). I was also able to get my first dorm life experience. Thanks for everything.”
“I developed a good relationship with my mentor, primary contact and fellow SPURS students. I was exposed to everything that happens behind the scenes in a research lab. It’s one thing when someone tells about research, but it’s much better when you can formulate your own opinion about research. The program gave me exposure to not only a research lab, but a research lab at Columbia University. I couldn’t have asked for more.”
“This summer was one of the best two months of my life. Every day was a new day to live and learn with social events, talks, lab work, and networking. Every day it made me fell like I was very special. I just owe this program for everything it has given me to learn and people to know.”
“It’s a great program and I’m glad I was part of it. The connections and skills I gained during these two months are going to help me in my future career.”