Columbia University Medical Center


Report on the Summer 2016 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 26 fellows: 12 females and 14 males; 17 African–Americans, 7 Latino-Americans, 1 Asian-American and 1 Caucasian. In addition to the SUNY and CUNY students (3), we had eight students from Columbia University, two students from Barnard, two students from New York University and one student from Cornell University. In addition, from outside of New York, we had two students from Amherst College and one student each from Morehouse College, Lawrence University, Boston College, Pomona College, UCLA, Franklin and Marshall, and the University of Nevada. We received a record number of 120 applications this academic year. In this past year, we partnered with Prep for Prep, a program that identifies New York City’s most promising students of color in middle school and prepares them for placement at elite high schools throughout the northeast and colleges throughout the country, to admit several Prep students into the SPURS program. In addition, we have partnered with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Exceptional Research Opportunities Program (EXROP) to host four to six of their students each summer within the SPURS program. This added diversity in the student pool only strengthened the program this summer.

The 2016 participants are: D’Nea Galbraith, Brendan Hammond, Zuriel Arellano, John Varriano, Lucia Duenas-Bianchi, Shatif Hughes, Miguelina Ortiz Burgos, Josephine McGowan, Jude Adjei-Kontoh, Kaylee Wedderburn-Pugh, Ewoma Ogbaudu, Serena Brosten, Johsias Hussen, Fredric Fabiano, Shaunpaul Jones, Semina Mahmood, Zoheb Hossain, Alexander Shields, Andrew Fabiano, Christian Burke, Chinasa Okolo, Arielle Tripp, Crystal Richards, Josh Regaldo, Aisha Kuforiji and Kimberly Meza.

1) D’Nea Galbraith
New York University
Mentor: Steven Siegelbaum
"The Role of Hippocampal Area CA2 in Encoding Social Memories"


2) Brendan Hammond
Cornell University
Mentor: Dr. Virginia Cornish
"Studying the Interactions Between GPCRs and Peptides in Yeast Cells"


3) Zuriel Arellano
SUNY Purchase
Mentor: Dr. Anne Moscona
"Human Parainfluenza Virus Type 3 Infectivity: Identification of the protease that cleaves the Viral Fusion Protein to its Active Form"


4) John Varriano
Hunter College
Mentor: Dr. Edward Owusu-Ansah
"Screening for Mitochondrial Complex I Assembly Factors in Drosophila"


5) Lucia Duenas-Bianchi
New York University
Mentor: Dr. Ellen Lumpkin
"Age-related Decline in Sensory Innervation of the Oral Cavity"


6) Shatif Hughes
Morehouse College
Mentor: Dr. Heidi Schambra
“Assessing Motor Performance in Stroke Patients Through IMU Technology”


7) Miguelina Ortiz Burgos
Lawrence University
Mentor: Dr. Kimara Targoff
“Phenotypic Analysis of crip2 and fbln2 Mutants in Zebrafish Embryos”


8) Josephine McGowan
Barnard College
Mentor: Dr. Christine Denny
"Prophylactic Ketamine Reduces Fear Expression but Does not Facilitate Extinction”


9) Jude Adjei-Kontoh
Columbia University
Mentor: Dr. Wesley Grueber
“Dissecting Nerual Circuits in Drosophila melangoster by Characterization of Interneuron Lines”


10) Kaylee Wedderburn-Pugh
Columbia University
Mentor: Dr. Andrew Marks
“Examining the Role of Leaky Ryanodine Receptors in Huntington’s Disease”


11) Ewoma Ogbaudu
Columbia University
Mentor: Dr. Jeanine D’Armiento
“Assesing the Efficiency of mTOR and Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors on LAM Tumor Pathogenesis”


12) Serena Brosten
Columbia University
Mentor: Dr. Stavroula Kousteni
“Nutrient Sensing in Osteoblasts and its Role in Lipocalin 2 Regulation”


13) Johsias Hussen
Amherst College
Mentor: Dr. Jonathan Javitch
“Co-Expression of Two Orthogonally-Labeled GPCRs in a Stable Cell Line”


14) Fredric Fabiano
Columbia University
Mentor: Dr. Henry Colecraft
“Enhanced Trafficking in Voltage Gated Calcium Channels With the α2δ Subunit”


15) Shaunpaul Jones
Amherst Collge
Mentor: Dr. Andrew Marks
“Identifying the Structure of the Mammalian Ryanodine Receptor”


16) Semina Mahmood
Columbia University
Mentor: Dr. Caline Karam
“Mapping Novel Gene Variants Associated With Amphetamine Sensitivity Using Drosophila Genetics?”


17) Zoheb Hossain
Princeton University
Mentor: Dr. Riccardo Dalla-Favera
“Targeting the PI3K Pathway in Dasatinib Resistant DLCBL2”


18) Alexander Shields
Columbia University
Mentor: Dr. Monica Goldklang
“Attenuation of Acute Lung Injury Blocking RAGE’s Inflammatory Signaling”


19) Andrew Fabiano
Boston College
Mentor: Dr. René Hen
“Role of Ventral Dentate Gyrus Activity in the Modulation Effects of Neurogenesis on Depression”


20) Christian Burke
SUNY Stony Brooke
Mentor: Dr. Steven Marx
“An Exploration of the Causes of Atrial Fibrillation”


21) Crystal Richards
Franklin and Marshall
Mentor: Dr. Charles Zuker
“Investigating Candidate Genes Potentially Responsible for Sour Taste Detectionr”


22) Josue Regaldo
University of Nevada, Reno
Mentor: Dr. Richard Axel
“SmartBox: A Two-Alternative Forced Task Assay for Odor Discrimination”


23) Kimberly Mezza
Barnard College
Mentor: Dr. Jeanine D’Armiento
“Regulation of Lung Function by Wnt Signaling and its Implications for Asthma ”


24) Aisha Kurforiji
Columbia University
Mentor: Dr. Charles Emala
“The Attenuation of a Pro-Contractile Response in Human Airway Smooth Muscle Cells Using SH-053 and SH-053 ACID”


25) Chinasa Okolo
Pomona College
Mentor: Dr. Michael Shadlen
“Arbitrarily Learned Sensorimotor Association”


26) Arielle Tripp
University of California, Los Angeles
Mentor: Dr. Eric Kandel
“Characterization of the Functional Prion-like Protein CPEB3 C-Terminal Domain In Vitro


The program began on Monday, June 6th, 2016 with an orientation led by Michael Holsey and Dr. Monica Goldklang. 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, 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, Dr. Lee Goldman, (Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine and Chief Executive of Columbia University Medical Center), Dr. Roy Vagelos (Chairman of the Board of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Retired Chairman of the Board and CEO of Merck & Co., Inc.), Dr. Hilda Hutcherson, Dr. Jaime Rubin, Dr. Edward Owusu-Ansah, Dr. Henry Colecraft, Dr. Steven Siegelbaum, Dr. Dennis Mitchell, and Dr. Jeanine D’Armiento. The Wednesday sessions also served as an opportunity for the program directors to monitor the students’ progress, address any issues or concerns, and connect. On Thursday and Friday, July 28th and 29th, Drs. Marks, D’Armiento, Goldklang and Michael Holsey met with the students each of whom gave an oral presentation of their project. Extensive feedback to each SPURS student was provided with guidance on the scientific content as well as 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.

There were a series of social/recreational activities including:

• Field trip to Regeneron Pharmaceuticals

• New York Philharmonic concert in Central Park

• Classical Theatre of Harlem production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth

• New York Yankees vs. Baltimore Orioles Baseball Game (tickets donated by the New York Yankees)

• A tour of the New York Structural Biology Center by Dr. Wayne Hendrickson, Scientific Director of the NYSBC and University Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Columbia University

• A farewell dinner

The 2016 program culminated on Thursday, August 4th, 2016, 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 9 weeks of intense research. Uniformly, each of the students expressed their gratitude for the learning experience and opportunities offered by the SPURS program. On Friday, August 6th, 2016 each of the students returned to their laboratories to finish the program and thank their laboratories for the rich learning experiences this summer.


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.