Summer undergraduate research program prepares diverse students for biomedical careers

Haruna Choijilsuren (left) and Katherine Oduguwa are members of the 2022 class of the UMass Chan Summer Undergraduate Research Program.

Haruna Choijilsuren and Katherine Oduguwa are high achieving undergraduate students interested in careers in medicine and science who participated in the Undergraduate Summer Research Program at UMass Chan Medical School. Along with 30 other highly trained college juniors and seniors from the United States and Puerto Rico, they spent 10 weeks immersed in UMass Chan’s state-of-the-art investigator labs.

First interested in medicine at age 5 when she felt sad because her grandfather with diabetes couldn’t eat sweets and she wanted to cure him, Choijilsuren from Mongolia, hopes to one day return to the country as a doctor and medical educator. She is a rising senior at Johns Hopkins University majoring in molecular and cellular biology, medicine, science, and the humanities.

“Few Mongols hold positions like me today. I hope to get the best training and experience possible so that I can teach the next generation of scientists and doctors,” Choijilsuren said. “I wish Mongolia and other developing countries had the same resources, revolutionary and advanced technologies as developed countries.”

Oduguwa, whose parents immigrated from Kenya, previously participated in basic science research in wet labs as a senior majoring in biology at Howard University and saw healthcare in action as a medical technician in ’emergency. She said seeing patients with opioid addiction helped her interest in brain research.

“It was hard to watch people suffer and not know what to do. This led to my scientific and clinical interests in pain,” she said. “I want to be an emergency physician and research ways to improve the way we quantify and treat pain. I was also interested in the neurophysiology of pain and opiate addiction.

Now in its 30th year, the Summer Undergraduate Research Program is designed to diversify the pool of biomedical researchers by providing structured and hands-on laboratory research experiences to undergraduate students, especially those from undergraduate backgrounds. represented in the field or economically or educationally disadvantaged. . The program provides participants with an immersion in real-world research, in which they learn together in classes and lectures and conduct experiments using state-of-the-art equipment and techniques in campus laboratories. Each student is paired with a Principal Investigator who serves as a mentor, role model and advisor.

Undergraduate summer scholars receive a stipend of $4,000. Travel and accommodation are paid for and arranged by the program with transportation provided to and from campus.

Oduguwa first conducted research on human subjects under the direction of Elise Stevens, PhD, assistant professor of population and quantitative health sciences in the Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine. Dr. Stevens identifies marketing techniques that encourage the use of unhealthy products, such as tobacco, and develops health messages aimed at reducing risky behaviors.

“I was surprised at how much I enjoyed training human subjects. It made me seriously consider joining an institutional research board,” Oduguwa said. which I want to do because I see so much importance in protecting human subjects.”

Choijilsuren worked in the lab of Gregory Pazour, PhD, a professor of molecular medicine and an expert in cilia function and assembly, who was the first to link cilia dysfunction to polycystic kidney disease.

“I found my interactions with members of my lab really meaningful,” Choijilsuren said. “They taught me a lot not only about science, but about different aspects of problem solving, critical thinking and skills that are going to come in handy no matter what I’m doing. It was exciting to walk every day to learn so many different things.

The Undergraduate Summer Research Opportunity is co-directed by Brian Lewis, PhD, the George F. Booth Chair in Basic Sciences, professor of molecular, cellular and cancer biology, and associate vice provost for outreach and recruitment, and Pranoti Mandrekar, PhD, professor of medicine. The National Institutes of Health and the UMass Chan Provost’s Office provide financial support.

Cellular immunologist Cherié L. Butts, PhD, Medical Director of Research and Development at Biogen Inc., delivered the keynote address during the closing ceremonies on August 5. scientific careers. Each graduate of the program received a certificate of completion, and several were honored for their research posters.

Undergraduate Summer Research Program Class of 2022

Sarah D. Arrieta, University of Maryland Baltimore County ’23
Natalie M. Baez Torres, Ana G. Méndez Cupey University ’24
Grace Carter, Northeastern University ’23
Haruna B. Choijilsuren, Johns Hopkins University ’23
John A. Florian-Alsina, University of Puerto Rico Rio Piedras ’23
Ariana I. Ginard Pacheco, University of Puerto Rico ’23
Jake A. Glicksman, Boston College ’24
Jo Gualpa, University of California Berkeley ’23
Taonga Horace, UMass Dartmouth ’23
Ryan Kennedy, Holy Cross College ’24
Serli Khanbabaei, California State University Long Beach ’23
Joshua Kim, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill ’23
Jessica Kwong, Boston University ’24
Hannah E. Leyva, University of Rochester ’23
Yanari A. Llanos-Torres, University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez ’24
Adrian Marquez Hernandez, University of Puerto Rico Cayey ’24
Sebastian A. Nieves-Lozano, University of Puerto Rico ’23
Katherine I. Oduguwa, Howard University ’23
Stephanie M. Ortiz-Espaillat, University of Puerto Rico Rio Piedras ’24
Harsh R. Patel, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Science ’24
Yamilett Y. Pineda, UMass Lowell ’23
Sydney Porto, Harvey Mudd College ’24
Sophia M. Puertotas, Wellesley College ’23
Kasidy Quiles, University of Connecticut ’23
Krystal A. Quirindongo Ortiz, University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez ’24
Wilma V. Richiez Mateo, University of Puerto Rico ’23
Andres Rodriguez Cardinas, Trinity College ’24
Jack N. Schob, Lehigh University ’24
Ava Silverman, Smith College ’24
Kenneth A. Walker, Pennsylvania State University ’24
Olivia S. Wilson, Scripps College ’24
Shuah Yu, Brown University ’24
Gaia Yun, Dartmouth College ’25


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