Columbia University Medical Center


Report on the Summer 2013 Activities of SPURS:
A Biomedical Research Program


With funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other generous private donations, the SPURS program was able to accommodate 13 fellows: 7 females and 6 males; 8 African–Americans, 3 Latino-Americans, 1 Asian-American and 1 Caucasian. In addition to the CUNY students from Hunter (7) and Brooklyn Colleges (1), we had two students from St. John’s University, one from Pace University, one from University of Washington and one from Harvard University. As the reputation of the program continues to grow we unfortunately must turn down qualified students due to funding constraints.

The 2013 participants are: Vincent Anguiano, Adamu Awak, Nicole Belgrave, Mae Castillo, Ksenia Dubrovina, Darwin Edmond, Steven Hall, Eboni Holloman, Wenona Lok, Brett McDonald, David Peprah, Mirjana Persaud, and Saneisha Roberts.

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

1) Vincent Anguiano - Project title – "The Modulation of Wnt Signaling through the Degradation of sFRPs by MMPs" Mentored by Dr. Jeanine D'Armiento


2) Adamu Awak– Project title – “Identifying Motor Neurons Relevant to Egg-Laying Behavior in Drosophila” Mentored by Dr. Richard Axel


3) Nicole Belgrave– Project title – “Cell-type Specific Role of Myd88 in Acute Lung Injury” Mentored by Dr. Jeanine D'Armiento


4) Mae Castillo– Project title – “Alzheimer’s Disease Using a Mouse Model: Genotyping and Behavioral Studies” Mentored by Dr. Andrew Marks


5) Ksenia Dubrovina – Project title – “Effect of HMGA2 Deficiency on Lung Development” Mentored by Dr. Jeanine D'Armiento


6) Darwin Edmond – Project title – “Specificity determinants in classical cadherins: effects of the tryptophan pocket residues” Mentored by Dr. Larry Shapiro


7) Steven Hall– Project title – “Synthesis of Dexamethasone-Cellotetraose-Methotrexate for Chemical Complementation” Mentored by Dr. Virginia Cornish


8) Eboni Holloman – Project title – “Investigation of GABAA α4 selective ligands” Mentored by Dr. Charles Emala


9) Wenona Lok – Project title – “Determinants of Surface Trafficking of α1C in HEK cells” Mentored by Dr. Henry Colecraft


10) Brett McDonald– Project title – “Identifying Behavioral Roles of Adult Drosophila Somatosensory Neurons” Mentored by Dr. Wes Grueber


11) David Peprah – Project title – “A dual color small molecule screen for preferential ALS motor neuron toxicity and survival” Mentored by Dr. Hynek Wichterle


12) Mirjana Persaud – Project title – “Exploring the therapeutic potential of NFkB suppression in DLBCL” Mentored by Dr. Riccardo Dalla-Favera


13) Saneisha Roberts – Project title – “Using Transgenic Mice to Elucidate the Regulation of Sodium Channels in the Heart” Mentored by Dr. Steven Marx


The program began on Monday, June 3, 2013 with an orientation led by the Director of the SPURS program, Ms. Tahnia Charles-Belle. 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 including stipend disbursement dates, identification card issuance, and schedule of training sessions. 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.

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, Jaime Rubin, Andrew Marks, Henry Colecraft, Anne Taylor, and Jeanine D’Armiento. 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 29 Drs. Marks and D’Armiento met with all of the students each of whom gave an oral presentation of their project. Drs. Marks and D’Armiento 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.

There were a series of social/recreational activities including:

• A welcome reception for Columbia University summer research fellows

• A baseball game at the Yankee Stadium: NY Yankees vs Kansas City Royals

• Department of Physiology & Cellular Biophysics Annual Retreat

• New York Philharmonic concert in Central Park

• Classical Theatre of Harlem production of Shakespeare’s Midsummer’s
   Night Dream

• A farewell dinner

Yankees game

The 2013 program culminated on Friday, August 2, 2013, 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.

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R25NS076445. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.