Science students learn new research skills through internships – Caldwell University


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Caldwell, NJ, September 9, 2019 – Several students from the Department of Natural Sciences at Caldwell University have participated in summer research internships taking them across the United States. The internships challenged the students academically and gave them clarity or confirmation for their future endeavors.

For the second summer, Marina Schlaepfer, a junior with a major in biology and a minor in chemistry, returned to the University of Colorado’s Anschutz medical campus to participate in the Gates summer internship program. Over the course of 11 weeks, interning with 20 other students, Schlaepfer explored cardiology under the supervision of Lori Walker, Ph.D.

“Specifically, I did research to unlock the plasticity of cardiac myocytes to harness the regenerative potential of the heart,” Schlaepfer explained. “I have been able to identify cell signaling pathways and unique factors from cardiac fibroblasts that may contribute to cardiac myocytes being more proliferative and more fetal. [or dedifferentiated]. “

When a person experiences a heart attack, muscle cells in the heart, cardiac myocytes, usually die instead of regenerating, but according to Schlaepfer, Walker’s lab has found that other mature heart cells can become less mature and then fall apart. transform into myocytes, allowing the heart to replace damaged muscle cells.

The completion of the internship confirmed to her that she wishes to continue her career in cardiology.

“I always knew I loved cardiology, and it made me realize how much I really love it,” she said. “The heart is so fascinating to me because it is such a hard-working machine. “

Schlaepfer plans to take an MD-Ph.D. way so that she can become a clinician-researcher or a doctor who also conducts research.

In addition to Dr Lori, Schlaepfer said she was grateful to Senior Research Assistant Yanmei Du for providing advice on her project.

Kofi Mireku during his internship

Senior Kofi Mireku also conducted his research at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus as part of the Cancer Research Summer Fellowship Program at the Cancer Center on campus.

Under the supervision of Dr. Medhi Fini, physician-researcher and assistant professor at the Center for Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Diseases of the Anschutz Medical Campus, Mireku conducted his research in the field of breast cancer.

“We have started a pilot study on xanthine oxidoreductase and ROS [reactive oxygen species] tolerance to E0771 breast cancer cells, ”Mireku said.

Prior to this experience, Mireku had never worked with animals or on in vivo technical. By inoculating the mammary glands of premenopausal and postmenopausal mice with E0771 breast cancer cells, Mireku measured tumor growth in both groups.

While collecting data, however, he and Fini accidentally discovered that the genes that code for XOR – an enzyme that generates ROS, a molecule believed to promote cancer growth – appeared to have been removed from tumor growth in postmenopausal mice.

This led Fini and Mireku to hypothesize that XOR plays an important role in controlling the function of fibroblasts found in the breast.

Although research is ongoing, Mireku said he has completed the first phase and shared his data with the college community in a poster presentation on campus.

Through this internship, Mireku said he achieved his goal of understanding the dynamics of being both a healthcare professional and a researcher, which cemented his belief in pursuing a career in medicine. He was also able to network with other professionals which led to another opportunity over the summer that exposed him to clinical experiences.

Aarion Romany during his internship

Aarion Romany, an international student from Trinidad and Tobago, majoring in chemistry and minor in marketing, found it difficult to find a research program that would accept an international student. After applying to several programs, Romany was accepted for the Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship program offered by the University of Arkansas Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology for Medical Sciences.

“There I was assigned a mentor who was a funded principal investigator,” Romany said. “The lab I joined is studying a protein called DNA helicase B (HELB). It is a protein that is involved in repairing our DNA when damaged.

Although this was his second internship, Romany said it was his first time conducting research at an R01 facility, which receives large research grants from the National Institutes of Health. Romany said the internship “was a wonderful experience” and that he plans to pursue higher education.

Romany advised other international students looking for research internships not to give up or “limit the field where you look for research opportunities”. He encouraged exploration of possibilities across the United States because that’s what led him to Arkansas, but he said the best place to start is the independent undergraduate research program. Caldwell University. “Through this program, I was prepared to conduct research, solve problems, reflect and even make presentations,” he said.

Keith Kyewalabye, a junior with a major in biology and a minor in music, who is an international student from Uganda, also struggled to find research opportunities.

Keith during his internship

Over two summers, Kyewalabye applied to over 40 programs and was eventually accepted to two for the summer. He chose the undergraduate summer research program held at the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas.

“I was doing cancer research. Specifically, the project I was working on was helping to understand this gene called ATM, ”he said. “I was studying the effects of a mutation on this gene [and] his expression.

ATM, or mutated telangiectasia ataxia, plays an important role in binding damaged DNA by releasing a protein to repair mutations. However, Kyewalabye explained that some cancers could mutate the gene, causing it to release a “missing protein” that cannot repair DNA well. The Food and Drug Administration, he noted, has approved drugs that target mutated TMJ, shutting down its ability to repair cancerous DNA, thereby causing cancer to die.

Kyewalabye said that some people who have the mutated ATM gene, and who should respond well to the drug, do not respond as expected because not all mutated ATM genes produce a missing protein.

“I was trying to figure out what types of mutations cause proteins to disappear and what types of mutations let proteins work.”

Kyewalabye found his internship experience insightful, and he realized that one can work in a clinical setting and in research. He hopes to become a neurosurgeon and plans to apply to MD-Ph.D. programs.

Right across from where Kyewalabye was conducting her research, Ngima Sherpa, a biology and chemistry major who is expected to graduate in December 2019, was conducting her research as part of the Biomedical Research Summer Internship or SMART program at the Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) in Houston.

“I didn’t know her before, but a mutual friend of ours told me that she was also in Houston, working at a hospital across from my house, and we eventually got in touch and connected over the course of the summer, ”Kyewalabye said.

“We bonded quickly,” Sherpa said. “It was really nice to meet someone from home in a new city.”

Ngima Sherpa presenting her research project

During her nine weeks at BCM, Sherpa worked at the Center for Drug Discovery in the lab of Dr. Nihan Ucisik and Dr. Martin Matzuk.

“I was new to the computational chemistry drug reuse lab research area, given my background in biological research, but my mentors helped me a lot in learning the concepts of computational chemistry and the different chemoinformatics techniques, ”Sherpa said.

BCM “is an incredible hub for cutting-edge scientific research, providing the perfect environment for successful young scientists,” she said. Due to her research experience, Sherpa decided to pursue a doctorate. She will be giving a presentation on her research in Hawaii this fall.

Senior colleague Shreyoshi Hossain, majoring in biology with a minor in chemistry and business, attended a summer internship at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island where she worked on a computational biology project.

“I was quite nervous for several reasons, first because it was my first time working with a programming language and second because I would be working at the institution ranked number one in academic research in the world by the scientific journal Nature ”says Hossain.

Shreyoshi during his internship

Fortunately, with the support of her mentor, Dr Hannah Meyer, Hossain was encouraged to learn by trial and error, and by the end of her internship, she had mastered a new programming language called R, writes a 20-page article. titled “Literature Mining for Human Pathogens” and presented his research to experienced scientists.

“Although it has been an intense few weeks, I am so grateful for the experience,” said Hossain.

In addition to conducting research during their internships, students attended seminars where they met professional researchers and learned about their fields. In some cases, they had the opportunity to observe doctors.

Other students doing research this summer were Amelia Biswas, who worked at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and Prasad Gyawali, who interned at the Henry E. Riggs School of Applied Life Sciences at the Keck Graduate Institute in California in the part of the Bioprocessing Summer Training and Education Program for undergraduate internships.

– Deborah Balthazar ’17

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Paul N. Strickland

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