Columbia University Medical Center


Report on the Summer 2014 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 11 fellows: 4 females and 7 males; 4 African–Americans, 3 Latino-Americans, 3 Asian-Americans and 1 Caucasian. In addition to the CUNY students from Hunter (4) and City Colleges (3), we had one student from Amherst College, one from Pace University, one from Haverford College and one from University of Alabama. As the reputation of the program continues to grow we unfortunately must turn down qualified students due to funding constraints.

The 2014 participants are: Reginald Anyichie, Parmanand Dasrat, Ashley Haynes, Azka Javaid, Jack Jnani, James Leonardi, Brittney Rodriguez, Mariella Romero, Demelio Urbano, Alejandro Vega and Malcolm Winkle.

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

1) Reginald Anyichie “Combatting LAM Disease with Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors” Mentored by Dr. Jeanine D'Armiento


2) Parmanand Dasrat “Late Na+ current is sufficient for development of heart failure and spontaneous atrial fibrillation in mice” Mentored by Dr. Steven Marx


3) Ashley Haynes “Role of RyR1 Oxidation in Cancer Associated Muscle Weakness” Mentored by Dr. Andrew Marks


4) Azka Javaid “ER Stress in ALS: inhibiting the SERCA pump” Mentored by Dr. Chris Henderson


5) Jack Jnani “Understanding the pathophysiology of T8K: a mutation in KCNK3 that can lead to Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension” Mentored by Dr. Robert Kass


6) James Leonardi “Analysis of the Interaction between the Par Complex and the Exocyst Complex in Rat Embryonal Dorsal Root Ganglions” Mentored by Dr. Ulrich Hengst


7) Brittney Rodriguez “ApoE4 Mutation and its Effect on Cognitive Function in Alzheimer's Disease” Mentored by Dr. Andrew Marks


8) Mariella Romero “A Mouse Model of Ventilator Associated Lung Injury” Mentored by Dr. Jeanine D'Armiento


9) Demelio Urbano “The Role of sPN1 Interneurons in Local Nociception” Mentored by Dr. Wes Grueber


10) Alejandro Vega “Investigating the Association Between CaV α1B and α2δ & Creating a CFP-IRES-α2δ construct” Mentored by Dr. Henry Colecraft


11) Malcolm Winkle “Binge-Drinking and its Effects on Expression of HCN1 Channels in the Prefrontal Cortex” Mentored by Dr. Steven Siegelbaum

The program began on Monday, June 2, 2014 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, Ira Tabas, Henry Colecraft, Anne Taylor, Steve Siegelbaum and Jeanine D’Armiento. The Wednesday sessions were also a time for the director of the program to monitor the students’ growth during the summer and address any issues or concerns. On Tuesday 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.

There were a series of social/recreational activities including:

• First Friday at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

• Field trip to Regeneron Pharmaceuticals

• New York Philharmonic concert in Central Park

• Classical Theatre of Harlem production of Shakespeare’s Midsummer’s Romeo and Juliet

• A farewell dinner

Regeneron 2014

The 2014 program culminated on Friday, August 1, 2014, 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.