Columbia University Medical Center


Report on the Summer 2017 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 25 fellows: 13 females and 12 males; 14 African–American, 7 Latino-American, 2 Asian-American, and 2 Caucasian. This year, we had 13 students attending schools in New York including nine from Columbia University, two from CUNY Hunter College, one from New York University, and one from Rochester Institute of Technology. The rest of the students attended schools from across the country: Howard University, Williams College, University of Chicago, North Carolina Central University, Bowdoin College, Emory University, Case Western Reserve University, Princeton University, Rutgers University, University of Houston, and Brown University. We received a record number of 191 applications this academic year. We partnered again with Prep for Prep and the Howard Hughes Exceptional Research Opportunities Program (EXROP) to integrate their students into the SPURS program.

The 2017 participants are: Andrea Conde, Jordan Ferreras, Priscilla Daboni, Josselyn Barahona, Briana Davis, Brian Zhao, Zachary Cyrus, Chantel Acevero, Nasser Douge, Lord Hymeamang, Freddie Fabiano, Kenny Igarza, Diana Ortiz, Maria Polo-Pieto, Kaylee Wedderburn-Pugh, Bunmi Fariyike, Dina Sheira, Shannon O’Rourke, Cindy Osei, Omid Cohensedgh, Ogoegbunam Okolo, Audrigue Jean-Louis, Felicia Benoit, Kylie Pecord.

1) Chantel Acevero
Howard University
Mentor: Dr. Oliver Hobert
"Using scRNA sequencing to form a molecular map of neuronal cells in the C. elegans nervous system"


2) Josselyn Barahona
Williams College
Mentor: Dr. Emilio Arteaga-Solis
"The Role of Secreted Frizzled-Related Protein-1 in the Inlfammatory Response of Allergic Asthma"


3) Felcia Benoit
New York University
Mentor: Dr. Andrew Marks
"Role of Ryanodine Receptor in Diaphragm Dysfunction in Huntington’s Disease"


4) Omid Cohensedgh
Columbia University
Mentor: Dr. Christine Denny
"Ketamine as a Prophylactic Against Inflammation-Induced Depressive and PTSD-like Symptoms in a Mouse Model"


5) Andrea Conde
Columbia University
Mentor: Dr. Steve Siegelbaum
"Examining Molecular Changes in Mouse Models of Epilepsy in Hippocampal Area CA2"


6) Zachary Cyrus
Rochester Institute of Technology
Mentor: Dr. Jonathan Javitch
“Rectuitment or Arrestin by Drug-Activated GPCRs at the Single Molecule Level”


7) Priscilla Daboni
University of Chicago
Mentor: Dr. Charles Emala
“Antagonism of the TMEM16A Calcium-Activated Chloride Channel Attenuates Gq-Coupled Calcium Increases in Human Airway Smooth Muscle Cells”


8) Briana Davis
North Carolina Central University
Mentor: Dr. Charles Zuker
"Exploring Interactions Between the Taste System and Feeding Circuits ”


9) Nasser Douge
Columbia University
Mentor: Dr. Henry Colecraft
“Functional Importance of the α1-β interaction in Pancreatic β-Cells ”


10) Fredric Fabiano
Columbia University
Mentor: Dr. Robert Kass
“Incorporation of a Fluorescent Unnatural Amino Acid, Anap, in the N-Trminus of KCNQ1”


11) Olubumi Fariyike
Columbia University
Mentor: Dr. Virginia Cornish
“Designing Environmental Sensors for Living Biomaterials”


12) Jordan Ferraras
Columbia University
Mentor: Dr. Rene Hen
“Neurogenesis in the Ventral Dentate Gyrus Prevents Stress-Induced Anxiety-like Behavior”


13) Lord Hyeamang
Columbia University
Mentor: Dr. Monica Goldklang
“Cigarette Smoke Disrupts Lipid Rafts in Lung Macrophages Altering TLR4 Localization”


14) Kenny Igarza
Emory University
Mentor: Dr. Richard Axel
“Investigation of the Activity of Courtship-Command Neurons in Drosophila Melanogaster”


15) Audrigue Jean-Louis

CUNY Hunter College
Mentor: Dr. Wayne Hendricksont
Crystallization of gp120 on HIV-1 Clade A


16) Michael Kim
Emory University
Mentor: Dr. Abid Hussaini
“Designing a Novel Apparatus for Assessing Path Integration Capabilities in EC-Tau Mouse Models”


17) Shannon O’Rourke
CUNY Hunter College
Mentor:Dr. Stavroula Kousteni
“Use of CRISPR Editing to Study the Role of MT1 in Idiopathic Osteoporosis”


18) Ogoegbunam Okolo
Case Western Reserve
Mentor: Dr. Wes Grueber
“Suppressive Transcriptional Regulation on Dendritic Morphology in Drosophila”


19) Diana Ortiz

Princeton University
Mentor: Dr. Jonathan Javitch
“Investigating the Genetic Basis of Amphetamine Sensitivity Using a Drosophila Behavioral Model”


20) Cindy Osei
Rutgers University
Mentor: Dr. Edward Owusu-Ansah
“Identifying New Assembly Factors of Mitochondrial Complex I in Drosophila Skeletal Muscle”


21) Kylie Pecord
Columbia University
Mentor: Dr. Ellen Lumpkin


22) Maria Polo-Prieto
University of Houston
Mentor: Dr. Stephen Goff
“Disseminated Neoplasia in Mytilus chilensis”


23) Dina Sheira
Columbia University
Mentor: Dr. Gerard Karseny
“Osteocalcin Regulates Glucose Production”


24) Kaylee Wedderburn-Pugh
Columbia University
Mentor: Dr. Andrew Marks
“Regulation of Lung Function by Wnt Signaling and its Implications for Asthma ”


25) Yinge (Brian) Zhao
Brown University
Mentor: Dr. Anne Moscona
“The Attenuation of a Pro-Contractile Response in Human Airway Smooth Muscle Cells Using SH-053 and SH-053 ACID”


The program began on Monday, June 5th, 2017 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, Dean Lee Goldman, Dr. Roy Vagelos, 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 2017 program culminated on Thursday, August 3th, 2017, 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, 2017 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.