Columbia University Medical Center


Report on the Summer 2012 Activities of SPURS:
A Biomedical Research Program


With funding from the NIH, the Doris Duke Charitable Fund and generous private donations, the SPURS program was able to accommodate 11 students: 2 female and 9 male; 5 Hispanic-Americans, 5 African–American and 1 Caucasian. In addition to the CUNY students from Hunter, Brooklyn and Queens Colleges, we had a student from Bowie State University, one from California Polytechnic State University and one from the University of Maryland. Dr. Andrew Marks, Founder and Dr. Jeanine D’Armiento, Executive Director reviewed 25 applications and selected the 11 most qualified students. As the reputation of the program continues to grow we unfortunately must turn down qualified students due to funding constraints.

The 2012 participants are: Vincent Anguiano, Aaron Bolds, Steven Cajamarca, Diana Carrillo, Kevin Cox, Godly Jack, Franklin Lema, Tal Lorberbaum, Harrison Paprah-Mensah, Reunet Rodney-Sandy, and Paul Thomas.

The participants are listed below along with the title of their research project and mentor’s name.

1) Vincent Anguiano - Project title – “Inhibiting of Cigarette Smoke Induced MMP1 in the brain using a Novel Drug to Prevent Alveolar Tissue Damage”, Mentor – Dr. Jeanine D’Armiento, Department of Medicine.


2) Aaron Bolds – Project title – “Resolvin D1 Regulation of Neuronal 5-Lipoxygenase”, Mentor – Dr. Ira Tabas and Dr. Gabby Fredman, Department of Medicine.


3) Steven Cajamarca – Project title – “Role of Leaky Neuronal Ryanodine Receptor Alzheimer’s Disease Pathology”, Mentor – Dr. Andrew Marks, Department of Physiology & Cellular Biophysics.


4) Diana Carrillo – Project title – “Inducible Motor Neuron Death in Mice as a Genetic Model for Early Motor Neuron Disease”, Mentor – Dr. Angela Christiano, Departments of Dermatology and Genetics & Development.

5) Kevin Cox – Project title – “Effect of Smoking on MMP-1 in Rabbit Lungs”, Mentor – Dr. Jeanine D’Armiento, Department of Medicine.

6) Godly Jack – Project title – “Developing an Assay for Neuronal Rem Deactivation Using Firefly Luciferase”, Mentor – Dr. Henry Colecraft, Department of Physiology & Cellular Biophysics.


7) Franklin Lema – Project title – “Immuno-staining of Targeted Hippocampus CA2 Neurons”, Mentor – Dr. Steven Siegelbaum, Department of Neuroscience.

8) Tal Lorberbaum – Project title – “Masking from Maleimide: Novel Clues to the Location of the FKBP Binding Site on Neuronal RyR1”, Mentor - Dr. Andrew Marks, Dr. Hana Totary-Jain and Dr. Gaetano Santulli, Department of Physiology & Cellular Biophysics.


9) Harrison Paprah-Mensah – Project title – “Expression and Physiology of Ryanodine Receptor in Drosophila Nervous System”, Mentor - Dr. Wes Gruber, Department of Physiology & Cellular Biophysics and Neuroscience.


10) Reunet Rodney-Sandy – Project title – “Expression, Purification and Crystallization of Neuronal Transmembrane Proteins”, Mentor – Dr. Filippo Mancia, Department of Physiology & Cellular Biophysics.


11) Paul Thomas – Project title – “Monitoring Endothelium, Neuro-Vascular Smooth Muscle Cells, Macrophages & T-Lymphocytes in a Rat Ballon-Injury Model”, Mentor – Dr. Andrew Marks, Department of Physiology & Cellular Biophysics.


The program began on Tuesday, May 29, 2012 with an orientation led by the Director of the SPURS program, Ms. Kiki Korikis. The students were given an overview of the program and were informed as to what is expected of them for the summer. In addition, administrative details were addressed such as; stipend disbursement dates, identification card issuance, schedule of training sessions, etc. The special seminar series of the SPURS program met on a weekly basis, on Wednesdays, throughout the summer during which speakers were brought in to serve as role models and to provide insight into the students’ career development regarding medical/PhD programs, their medical school years and the important aspects on which to focus to ensure a successful academic experience. The panel of speakers included Former NYC Mayor David Dinkins, Drs. Hilda Hutcherson, Andrew Marks, Henry Colecraft, Anne Taylor, Jeanine D’Armiento, and David Kazadi. The Wednesday sessions were also a time for the directors of the program to monitor the students’ growth during the summer and address any issues or concerns. On Monday July 23 Dr. Marks met with all of the students each of whom gave an oral presentation of their project. Dr. Marks provided extensive feedback to each SPURS student providing guidance on the scientific content as well as techniques of oral presentation. In addition, students participated in an expanded mentoring session with students from Columbia’s Medical and Graduate schools – MD, PhD, and MD.PhD candidates, and they attended a “How to Present” session given by Dr. D’Armiento, which was one of the high points of the program.

All students received instruction in Laboratory and Research Safety from the CUMC Environmental Health and Safety Department. This comprehensive seminar educated incoming students on how to maintain a safe environment through hazardous waste management, industrial hygiene, asbestos and lead management, biological safety, fire safety, the use of personal protective equipment and chemical tracking/safety.

There were a series of social/recreational activities including:

• A baseball game at the new Yankee Stadium: NY Yankees vs Atlanta Braves

• A reception at the New York Academy of Sciences

• The Macy’s July 4th Fireworks

• A farewell dinner

The 2012 program culminated on Wednesday, August 1, 2012, when each of the students presented their research in a poster session. This session was attended by mentors, post-docs, faculty, graduate students and family members. The poster session served as an excellent tool to help the students synthesize their 10 weeks of research.

At the conclusion of the summer, the students completed a post program evaluation. There was an 82% completion rate. The evaluation included satisfaction with the program, program experience and mentor experience. The results showed that 100% of the students agreed that, overall, SPURS is an excellent program.

The mentors were also asked to complete a post-program survey. There was an 82% completion rate and 100% of the mentors believed that SPURS provides outstanding training and that having SPURS students in their labs was a valuable experience.

A few of the comments recorded in the students’ evaluations of the SPURS Program this past summer include:

I had an incredible experience this summer and would like to thank everyone involved in the planning and running of the SPURS program for giving me this awesome opportunity.
"During the internship, I was able to “sit in” with the grown-ups at the round table. I listened to people who are the best in their respective fields."
"The SPURS program was an excellent choice in terms for a great summer experience. Lab settings were very friendly and educative. Mingling with peers, other scientists, and students in the PhD and MD programs was an amazing way to get realistic feedback on why to choose a particular path and how."
"I had an incredible experience this summer and would like to thank everyone involved in the planning and running of the SPURS program for giving me this awesome opportunity."
"The SPURS program is a wonderful opportunity for us undergraduates to gain “hands-on” experience in the sciences. Also, the advice and preparation on applying to graduate school is very helpful. "