Columbia University Medical Center


Report on the Summer 2010 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 2010 WE COMPLETED THE 9TH EDITION OF SPURS, having assisted over 100 students since 2002:

• In a difficult economic climate, we were still able to accommodate 12 students: 4 male and 8 female; 4 African-Americans, 6 Hispanic-Americans, and 2 other from NIH-sponsored programs for under-represented populations. In addition to the students from Hunter and Brooklyn Colleges, who form the core of our program, we had students this Summer from Amherst, Swathmore, and Columbia. As the reputation of SPURS grows and spreads we increasingly need to turn down students from many schools due to ever-present funding limitations.
• Once again, we provided a series of familiar and 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
- Required ten-minute oral presentations 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 second time, a speaker from a previous Summer. this time it was Donaldson Conserve, now a Graduate Student in Public Health at the University of Pennsylvania, speaking to the Interns about his experiences both as a SPURS Intern and as a first-year Graduate Student
- A screening of Naturally Obsessed, The Making of a Scientist, which was filmed in and around the Columbia lab of Dr. Larry Shapiro, with Dr. Shapiro joining us for a discussion of the issues raised by the film
- Visit to the new Yankee Stadium for a baseball game

- Attendance at a performance in Central Park of Shakespeare’s Richard III by the New York Classic Theater Company
- Attendance at a joint performance in Central Park by the New York Philharmonic and the Shanghai Philharmonic
- Reception at the New York Academy of Sciences
- For two students (Eric Davis and Dalila Ordonez, see picture below) a guest-starring role on one edition of Mayor Dinkins’s weekly radio show
• We again provided an outstanding series of speakers for the students, including: from Columbia: Dean Hilda Hutcherson, former Mayor of New York City David Dinkins, Dr. Andrew Marks, Dr. Henry Colecraft, Dr. Jeanine D’Armiento, and Dr. Kathie Ann Joseph, and, in addition, Dr. Stephen Kaminsky from the Weill Medical College, and Dr. Eve Higginbotham, Howard University, Senior Vice President and Executive Dean for Health Sciences.
Spurs students
• 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:
- Finding a Neural Substrate for Chronic Pain (Evelyn Ramirez mentored by Prof. Joy Hirsch and Shauna Baer)
- Characterization of the RGK Family Expression in HEK 293 Cells (Dalila Ordonez mentored by Prof. Henry Colecraft and Ming Chen)
- Activating and Deactivating BCL6 Using Two Inducible Systems (Tabitha Julien mentored by Prof. Riccardo Dalla-Favera and Dr. Carol Ying)
- Expression, Purification, and Crystallization of Membrane Proteins, the NYCOMPS Project (Arturo Gonzales mentored by Prof. Filippo Mancia and Dr. Giuliano Sciara)
- Understanding the Low Yields of D-Amino Acids in the Elongation Cycle of Protein Synthesis (Temilayo Adeyeye mentored by Prof. Virginia Cornish and Michael Englander)

- Histopathologic and Functional Studies Related to Dendritic Cell Efferocytosis, A Possible Mechanism for Inefficient Apoptotic Cell Clearance and Placque Necrosis in Advanced Atheromata (Naomie Delone mentored by Prof. Ira Tabas and Dr. Edward Thorp)

FRET Based Analysis of CaMKII Activity in Cardiomyocytes (Leon Morales mentored by Prof. Andrew Marks and Alex Kushnir)

- Modification of Innate Behaviors; Sex Overrides Hunger (Eric Davis mentored by Prof. Richard Axel and Dr. Barbara Noro)

- The Effect of Chronic Stress on Modification of the Ryanodine Receptor (Lamia Harik mentored by Prof. Andrew Marks and Dr. Xiaoping Liu)

- Forward Genetic Screen for Genes Required for Neuronal Morphogenesis Identifies Autophagy-Related 1 (Atg1) (Carolyn Diaz mentored by Prof. Wes Grueber)

- Application of Flexible Accelerated STOP-Tetracycline Operator Knockin Gene Modulating System for HMGA2 Protein Expression (Edson Mancilla mentored by Prof. Jeanine D’Armiento and Dr. Taka Shiomi

- The Role of Micro RNA’s on the Expression of Genes (Fatima De Vol mentored by Prof. Andrew Marks and Dr. Hana Totary-Jain

Poster session

- Going forward, our plans for the summer of 2011, 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

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 ’11
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 am extremely appreciative about the opportunities presented to me and meeting such a wonderful group of people. I truly believe I have made lifelong friends and mentors.”
“It is great that it is a program with other students that are all at the same stage of our lives. Yes we are placed in different labs, but the program finds a way to unite us”
“The most positive element of my time in the lab was: the connections and people I met in the lab including my mentor and PI. They are people I want to model myself after and wish to stay in touch for a very long time and use them as mentors.”
“The most positive element of my time in the lab was to have amazingly patient and caring people to work with; to be able to discuss current scientific ideas  and explore novel ideas that might help in the treatment of one of the most deadly diseases in the U.S. ; to be able to work with a medical student in the lab and get useful pieces of advice on how to get into medical school; to have the opportunity to learn and perform very useful techniques (such as surgery on mice) that very few undergraduate students get to do.”
“The SPURS program is a great opportunity to create a mutually enriching exchange between students and laboratories mainly focused on research.”

student discussions