Every summer, the valued tradition of student outreach at Einstein helps to expose high school and college students to careers in science as they gain hands-on experience in research laboratories. Between late June and early August, approximately one dozen teenagers participate in the five-week Einstein-Montefiore Summer High School Research Program (SHSRP), while 40 undergraduates take part in the nine-week Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP). These outstanding students are selected from around the country and matched with a faculty mentor based on their research interests.
Upon their arrival in the Bronx, the students attend orientation events, including a campus tour, a social luncheon with faculty and graduate student hosts and special training seminars on laboratory safety and practice. Students also are invited to take advantage of the academic and social activities available on campus, such as faculty seminars, student mixers and networking events. And they are encouraged to immerse themselves in the Einstein community in order to get a taste of what life as a scientist might be like.
The primary component of each program is the laboratory experience, through which students take part in the bench science being conducted by their mentors. For example, high schooler Kilole Aklilo, from the Ursuline School in New Rochelle, will assist with research in Dr. David Sharp's lab. Working with Ph.D. student Rabab Charafeddine, she’ll study the role of Fidgetin, a microtubule-severing enzyme that has important functions during cell division and cell migration.
Meanwhile, SURP student Monica Castle, from Rutgers University, will be working in Dr. Ekaterina Dadachova’s lab, where she will assist Ph.D. student Dina Tsurkov with a component of her thesis project that focuses on destroying HIV-infected cells using radioimmunotherapy. Specifically, Ms. Castle will help develop a method to stain HIV-infected cells with various antibodies in order to distinguish between non-infected and HIV-infected cells. Currently, effectively staining these cells presents a major obstacle in HIV research.
“Aside from gaining invaluable research skills, the enrichment opportunities that the program offers have allowed me to gain insight into what pursuing a research career is like,” said Ms. Castle. “I came here unsure of what path I should take, but the work I’m doing has made me realize that I’m truly passionate about science and would like to pursue an M.D.-Ph.D. degree.”
“Intensive research-focused programs like these are instrumental to recruiting and developing the next generation of young scientists,” noted Dr. Victoria Freedman, associate dean for graduate studies in the biomedical sciences. “In addition to gaining real laboratory experience, students get connected with inspiring mentors who can guide them throughout their academic journeys, even after the program ends.”
With funding support from Einstein, private donors, and individual student funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) and a National Institute of General Medical Sciences MARC Undergraduate Student Training in Academic Research Award, SURP was established at Einstein more than 25 years ago and has trained hundreds of students. Many of these undergraduates have gone on to pursue careers in science.
To reach even younger students, the Einstein-Montefiore SHSRP, co-directed by Dr. Victoria Freedman and Dr. Amy Fox, is now in its fourth summer. It was initiated with an educational grant from Siemens Corporation, and is currently funded by educational grants from Roche Diagnostics, Abbott Pharmaceuticals and a private donor. The summer programs are organized and administered by the Sue Golding Graduate Division.
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