Einstein's Minority Student Summer Research Opportunity Program Offers Undergraduates Hands-On Laboratory Experience

July 24, 2007 - (BRONX, NY) - Ever since he was a young child, people have been telling Adnan Hirad that he looks like a doctor. "Perhaps it is because I wore glasses from age seven, but I always liked science and know how much health means to people. So, from a very young age becoming a doctor has been my goal," says Hirad, who is taking part in the Minority Student Summer Research Opportunity Program at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University.

The nine-week Einstein program, which has been in existence for more than 20 years, places between 7 and 10 minority undergraduate students in its research laboratories each summer, teaming the students with a faculty mentor who teaches them various lab skills and supervises them as they conduct research in the laboratory. Students also attend weekly seminars, workshops, and lectures and have the opportunity to interact with graduate students and postdoctoral fellows at the medical school.

"We receive applications from students from all over the country," notes Nilda I. Soto, assistant dean for diversity enhancement at Einstein, who also is director of the program. "Because minority have been underrepresented in medicine, we aim to provide them with valuable laboratory experience through which they can present their work to peers and faculty and gain further insight into opportunities that exist for them in science and medicine."

Students must be in their sophomore or junior year at the time they apply and have a grade point average of 3.0 or higher in the sciences, and they must demonstrate a strong interest in a research career in biomedical or biological sciences.

Hirad, whose GPA is 3.8, will be a senior when he returns to Lehman College this fall, where he is a biochemistry major. He will finish his college education in three years and plans to apply to M.D.-Ph.D. programs, since he would like to combine being a physician with conducting research. "I'm still debating whether to do a year of research first, but ultimately I want to get an M.D.-Ph.D, "he says.

The ambitious young man, who is a native of Somalia, only arrived in the United States in 2005, when he and his older brother came to live here with their father. He attended high school in Sudan, where his mother moved the family when he was 14. "My schooling was very math and science intensive," he says. "It has trained me for medical school, and this opportunity at Einstein has solidified my desire to become a doctor and a researcher."

He adds, "Initially, I was concerned about the time involved with getting an M.D.-Ph.D., but now I know it will be worth the time that I will put into it. The whole experience has been very exciting."

Hirad's enthusiasm has not gone unnoticed. "He is, by far, the most enthusiastic and interested student that I've had in my lab," says Dr. Anne Bresnick, professor of biochemistry at Einstein, who has had approximately five undergraduate students in her laboratory through the program. "Some students have a tougher time adjusting to the pace of a laboratory. We spend a lot of time troubleshooting and setting up our systems. Adnan gets that and, as a result, he's accomplishing things and making progress at the bench."

Adds Hirad, "It's not just the lab experience that's been great. We've attended lectures and seminars that give us exposure to different areas of research, and we've gotten valuable information about medical school and career choices. Everyone is so open and helpful, and people here really seem to enjoy what they are doing."