Columbia University Medical Center


Report on the Summer 2009 Activities of SPURS:
A Biomedical Research Program

SPURS Group Early in November, three 2009 SPURS students from Hunter College won awards at the prestigious Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students held this Year in Phoenix, Arizona. The national conference is sponsored by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), Division of Minority Opportunities in Research Program (MORE) and managed by the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) and includes nearly 1100 Oral and Poster Presentations by undergraduate students. The SPURS winners were Judith Rosena for her oral presentation and Antonella Jimenez and Junior Gonzales for their posters (See below for topics and mentors). Congratulations to all!
IN AUGUST 2009 WE COMPLETED THE 8TH EDITION OF SPURS, having assisted nearly 90 students since 2002:

• In a difficult economic climate, we were still able to accommodate 8 students: 3 male and 5 female; 4 African-Americans, 3 Hispanic-Americans, and 1 other from NIH-sponsored programs for under-represented populations
• We provided, in addition to our annual events, several new activities, including:
- Welcome Reception along with other Columbia programs serving under-represented students
- An expanded mentoring session with students from Columbia’s Medical and Graduate schools – MD, PhD, and MD/PhD candidates
- Following on last Summer’s success, 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
- For the first time, a speaker from a previous Summer. Michelle Bubnik, now a Graduate Student at SUNY Buffalo, spoke to the Interns about her experiences both as a SPURS Intern and as a first-year Graduate Student in Psychology
- Screening of a wonderful documentary, Naturally Obsessed, The Making of a Scientist, presented by the film-makers and the principal investigator of the lab that served as the setting for the film
- Visit to the new Yankee Stadium for a baseball game

- Attendance at a performance in Battery Park of Shakespeare’s King Lear by the New York Classic Theater Company
- Comedy night at the Central Park Summerstage series
- Reception at the New York Academy of Sciences
• 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, and Dr. Stephen Kaminsky from the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative
Spurs students
• The Poster Session on July 29, 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:
- Brain Activation for Music and Language in Autism Disorder (Janill Briones mentored by Prof. Joy Hirsch)
- The Role of Type 2 Ryanodine Receptor in Arrhythmia Post-Ischemia Reperfusion (Junior Gonzales mentored by Prof. Andy Marks)
- Antioxidants Initiate the Unfolded Protein Response (Karla Dixon mentored by Prof. Jeanine D’Armiento)
- Cigarette Smoke Regulates Genes in Neointimal Extracellular Matrix Deposition and Degradation (Antonella Jimenez mentored by Prof. Jeanine D’Armiento)
- Exercise Tolerance Study in Ryanodine Receptor 2-S2808A Mice (Lynchy Lezeau mentored by Prof. Andy Marks)
- The Pathologic Interaction of MYC-BCL6 in Germinal Center B-Cells and its Contribution to Lymphomagenesis (Judith Rosena mentored by Prof. Riccardo Dalla-Favera)
- Functional Examination of Sensory Neurons that May Function in the Larval Locomotion Circuit of Drosophila (Rehana Bhuiyan mentored by Prof. Wes Grueber)
- Disseminating Critical Time Intervention (Donaldson Conserve mentored by Prof. Sally Conaway)

Poster session

- Going forward, our plans for the summer of 2010, all dependent upon raising the necessary funds, include:

- The introduction of a another 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”

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:
“Being in the SPURS program has been a wonderful experience.  I feel like I have grown as a student and as a potential scientist.    The Program has also made me more confident at presentations.  My interest in science research overall has increased because of my experience here.”
“I had a blast. The people I have met, the friendships I’ve developed, the technical skills I’ve acquired, the presentation training, the prep for graduate school, the mentoring opportunity, and the wonderful experience of being on a beautiful Ivy League campus are all things that I will never forget. I am infinitely grateful for this opportunity. I am an MBRS-RISE scholar and the program is always talking about diversifying the field of biomedical research because we are minorities. I understood and respected the goal of this program but I’ve never really experienced the feeling of being a minority until working in a lab at Columbia this summer. Being exposed to this environment during undergrad has given me confidence to pursue this field. I won’t feel unprepared or like I don’t belong anymore. I also wanted to thank the administrators of the program for being so genuine about the mission of the program and showing us such great care.”
“The Experience was wonderful. . . Even though I was not really social, we became like a little family.”

student discussions