Einstein Students Present at Bronx Science Consortium

Minh Nguyen and Brett Wolfson-Stofko were among the Einstein graduate students who took part in the symposium. They were joined by Daniel Carbajo-Pedrosa, Brian O’Rourke and  Danielle A. Espinoza (not pictured)
Minh Nguyen and Brett Wolfson-Stofko were among the Einstein graduate students who took part in the symposium. They were joined by Daniel Carbajo-Pedrosa, Brian O’Rourke and Danielle A. Espinoza (not pictured)

The Dancing Crane Pavilion at the Bronx Zoo was the setting for an interactive poster session hosted by the Bronx Science Consortium on Wednesday, September 25, 2013. The presenters at the event — a first for the consortium — included five graduate students from Einstein's Graduate Programs in the Biomedical Sciences.  

Their work was featured among the 33 presentations on current research studies by high school, undergraduate and graduate level researchers from the consortium's partner institutions: Einstein, Fordham University, Montefiore Medical Center, the New York Botanical Garden and the Wildlife Conservation Society/Bronx Zoo. 

The Bronx Science Consortium was officially formed in May 2012, when Edward Burns, M.D., Einstein's executive dean, joined Steven Safyer, M.D., president and CEO of Montefiore Medical Center; Jeffrey Downing, vice president for education, New York Botanical Garden; Steven Sanderson, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society; and Joseph McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, in signing an agreement to expand research and education collaborations in the Bronx.  Under the consortium's umbrella, faculty members, biologists, chemists, mathematicians, patients, clinicians and others from the partner institutions will pool their talents to conduct interdisciplinary research projects.

The consortium represents a new model of scientific research, education and community engagement.   In keeping with its mission, the inaugural poster session was open to the public. The projects showcased spanned a wide range of fields, including biology, biomedical science, chemistry, computer science, mathematics, physics and psychology.  

"It was an interesting environment because there was biomedical science as well as urban ecology, zoology and computer science," said Brett Wolfson-Stofko, a 5th-year Ph.D. candidate who works in the laboratory of Dr. John Blanchard, professor of biochemistry, and was one of the Einstein presenters.  The goal of his research project: to decipher the chemical mechanism of enzymes in order to design more potent and effective drugs with fewer side effects for the treatment of Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

"We had about 50 visitors, and many of them showed interest in my work," said Mr. Wolfson-Stofko. "Although the fine details may have been over their heads, I enjoyed explaining the overarching goal of my research: to design better drugs to aid in treating disease. People were able to understand it at that level."

Mr. Wolfson-Stofko also used the opportunity to interact with undergraduate students who presented that day. "I did my best to encourage them to pursue research in the sciences," he said. "In particular, there was an undergraduate from Fordham who was majoring in mathematics and minoring in computer science.  I encouraged her to look into graduate programs in systems and computational biology, and told her about the successes of mathematicians in the basic sciences, such as Dr. Bill Jacobs here at Einstein."

He continued, "What excites me the most about my research is the opportunity to contribute to the understanding of a pathogen that could ultimately lead to a cure. In talking with the visitors, I made sure to stress the importance of funding basic science research and why it's so important to the health and well-being of all people."

"We're delighted that our students had the opportunity to take part in this exciting event," said Dr. Victoria Freedman, associate dean for graduate programs at Einstein.  "Collaboration is such an important part of what our graduate training is all about, and we look forward to having more of our students participate in future activities sponsored by the consortium."

The Einstein students who presented at the consortium's poster session included:

  • Danielle A. Espinoza — Area of research: radioimmunotherapy
  • Minh Nguyen — Area of research:  genetics with a focus on rhabdoid tumors
  • Brian O'Rourke — Area of research:  cancer, cell migration
  • Daniel Carbajo Pedrosa — Area of research: systems biology, cancer genomics, gene networks, biostatistics
  • Brett Wolfson-Stofko — Area of research:  biochemistry, mycobacterium tuberculosis, enzymology

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