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UGSP Spring 2015 Newsletter

Compiled and edited by UGSP Scholars Vince Salazar and Manjot Bagri

Letter from the Director: Mentoring for Success
Mentoring is an essential component of the NIH Undergraduate Scholarship Program (UGSP) and crucial to successful participant outcomes. NIH UGSP Scholars receive mentoring on multiple levels from the time they are selected into the program as undergraduates and also when they return to the NIH to complete their required service obligation. When initially selected as an undergraduate student, UGSP Scholars have to identify a mentor on the campus of their home university. This person is usually a professor or university administrator who is able to assess the student's progress and provide them solid professional and academic advice when needed. In addition, UGSP Scholars are matched with NIH scientists, who have proved to be advocates for new young trainees, share their career interest and serve as mentors during their required NIH payback. The UGSP effort to create a good trainee-mentor pairing includes the UGSP Mentor Match. This event allows undergraduate scholars to visit the NIH main campus in Bethesda, Maryland, interview with prospective mentors, and attend seminars, where NIH investigators discuss their research and the potential projects Scholars may endeavor. Students also attend a workshop that provides insight about how to select a mentor. This event greatly increases the likelihood of a successful trainee-mentor pairing and a positive NIH experience and subsequent outcome.

The broader NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) website also offers other valuable resources about how to select a mentor and establish meaningful and successful mentor-trainee partnership. One resources is the video "How to Find an NIH Mentor", which provides valuable information describing how to successfully identify an NIH investigator to sever as your mentor. Another helpful resource is ‘A Guide to Training and Mentoring in the Intramural Research Program at NIH' which contains useful mentoring information for prospective trainees and mentors, setting the standard for mentoring in the NIH community.


Welcome New UGSP Scholars
We are excited for the 2014-2015 UGSP scholars to arrive for their summer research experience at the main campus in Bethesda, MD.

Joel Adu-Brimpong
Senior at University of Michigan
Summer Mentor: Mr. Vence Bonham

Adriana Alexander
Junior at Southern Oregon University
Summer Mentor: Dr. Jurrien Dean

Zakary Beach
Senior at University of Missouri - Columbia
Summer Mentor: Dr. Martha Somerman

Abraham Corrales
Junior at University of California, Davis
Summer Mentor: Dr. Harris Bernstein

Neranjan de Silva
Junior at Columbia University
Summer Mentor: Dr. Andre Larochelle

Ebenezer Ewul
Senior at CUNY-Lehman College
Summer Mentor: Dr. Eric Wasserman

Charlesice Hawkins
Senior at University of California Merced
Summer Mentor: Dr. Huaibin Cai

Indra Kar
Senior at New York University
Summer Mentor: Dr. Denise Haynie

Samantha Louis
Senior at Tulane University
Summer Mentor: Dr. Tiffany Powell Wiley

Joshua McCausland
Senior at University of North Georgia
Summer Mentor: Dr. Michael Otto

Kevin McPherson
Junior at Emory University
Summer Mentor: Dr. Hari Shroff

Bilal Moiz
Junior at University of Rochester
Summer Mentor: Dr. Anil Mukherjee

Chase Morgan
Junior at Columbia University
Summer Mentor: Dr. David Sacks

Akosua Osei-Tutu
Junior at University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Summer Mentor: Dr. Christina Annunziata

Veronica Ramirez
Junior at University of San Diego
Summer Mentor: Dr. Chris Baker

Sohee Shim
Senior at The George Washington University
Summer Mentor: Dr. Robert Nussenblatt

Kelly Sanchez
Senior at University of Connecticut
Summer Mentor: Dr. Philip Shaw

Courtney Vaughan
Senior at Virginia Commonwealth University
Summer Mentor: Dr. Vijay Ramchandani

Charisse Ahmed
Senior at University of Florida
Summer Mentor: Dr. Henry Masur

Bethany Sauls
Junior at University of Texas at Dallas
Summer Mentor: Dr. Lauren Atlas


UGSP Scholar Giving Back to the Community
Symone Jordan, UGSP 2013-2014 UGSP scholar, has expressed great interest in being active in several community service projects and outreach programs. In Hands on D.C., she helped to improve the physical conditions of metropolitan area schools, while Project Enrich allowed her to assist high school students in their enrollment and adjustment to higher education institutions in collaboration with Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. She credits her most notable volunteer experience with Mentoring-2-Manhood, where she currently serves as a science tutor.

Symone became involved with the Mentoring-2-Manhood organization while attending college as a way to fulfill her requirements for graduating with honors. Since then, she has been volunteering with the program while working at NIH during her UGSP payback.

Recently, she has been fostering a partnership with the organization to complete her service requirement with the NIH Academy. The focus of the NIH Academy is to "offer trainees the opportunity to learn about health disparities, enhance their knowledge of gaps in health outcomes, and investigate what is being done to address health disparity issues". Symone was recently selected for the 2014 cohort of NIH Academy fellows this past year.

She plans to conduct an outreach program hosting weekly sessions to help educate young African American males about the opportunities available to pursue degrees in the STEM fields. The sessions would include career planning, weekly conversations with a professional within those fields, and activities involving resume building and college application preparation.

As seen throughout her volunteer commitments, Symone has a unifying thread of passion to improve access to education and decrease disparities so that everyone has a higher chance of reaping the benefits of higher education.

In the future, Symone aspires to continue participating in biomedical research projects, community service events, and attend medical school where she hopes to specialize in reconstructive surgery. As a doctor, she wants to help eliminate ethnic and racial health disparities and provide premium healthcare to individuals from underserved communities.


Scholar Highlight: Kenny Chen "From Flies to Mice"
UGSP Scholar - Kenny ChenAlthough Kenny Chen's current work in Dr. Jeff Green's lab at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) focuses on using mouse models of human cancer, he owes much of his success to his previous work with Drosophila melanogaster. Also known as the common fruit fly, Drosophila is a powerful model organism of discovery, useful for rapid studies of genetics and developmental biology. Kenny's previous experiences include undergraduate research with Dr. Albert Courey at the UCLA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and a summer fellowship supported by the Amgen Foundation at the California Institute of Technology with Dr. Angela Stathopoulos. In these labs, Kenny worked with flies and learned how to utilize techniques with broad applications in the biosciences, including RNA-seq, immunoprecipitation, and immunoblotting. RNA-seq allows scientists to study gene expression at the level of the entire transcriptome by looking at levels of RNA with next-generation sequencing. In Dr. Courey's lab, Kenny used this technique to study transcriptional regulation in Drosophila embryos.

In his current work in Dr. Green's lab, Kenny uses data from RNA-seq experiments to identify hopeful targets implicated in tumor progression. Dr. Green's lab focuses on determining molecular mechanisms involved in breast cancer progression using transgenic mouse approaches. Kenny's current project further includes characterization of immunocompetent mouse models for triple-negative breast cancer, a heterogeneous subtype that does not express the genes for estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, or Her2/neu. This type of work helps to improve pre-clinical testing for this difficult-to-treat cancer.

Kenny hopes to apply his chemistry background to his research by utilizing mass spectrometry and identifying post-translational modifications of cancer proteins such as p53. With this ongoing project, Kenny has purified p53 proteins from mouse and human cell lines with immunoprecipitation. Mass spectrometry analysis will reveal whether there are differential levels of post-translational modifications of the protein when certain genes are overexpressed.

Image of Microscope SlidesKenny examines microscope slides mounted with tumor slices to understand the genes involved in tumor progression. In this set, Kenny uses H&E staining for cell morphology and TUNEL staining for detecting cells undergoing apoptosis, or programmed cell death.

Kenny has been accepted into multiple PhD programs in chemistry, including those at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA) and the University of Washington (Seattle, WA). Kenny plans to apply chemistry to solve important questions in biology, such as how protein homeostasis is important in many human diseases, including Huntington's disease and Alzheimer's disease. He also hopes to use and develop technologies to study diseased states such as those involving the immune system and cancer.

Kenny graduated from UCLA in 2014 with a Bachelor's degree in Chemistry with Departmental Highest Honors and a Minor in Biomedical Research. He was selected as a UGSP Scholar in 2013 and began research at NIH the summer of 2014.


Where are they going?
Several UGSP scholars are completing their payback (or a subsequent fellowship) at NIH this summer and are matriculating into various programs this fall. A few of them share their upcoming plans here:

Kingsley Asiedu, NCI
For post NIH, Kingsley plans to begin medical school. He has been accepted into several programs: He likes University of Michigan the most, but has not decided where he will ultimately go as of yet.

Kenny Chen, NCI
Kenny has been accepted into multiple PhD programs in chemistry, including those at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA) and the University of Washington (Seattle, WA). Kenny plans to apply chemistry to solve important questions in biology, such as how protein homeostasis is important in many human diseases, including Huntington's disease and Alzheimer's disease. He also hopes to use and develop technologies to study diseased states such as those involving the immune system and cancer.

Anna Nkrumah, NCI
Anna will be matriculating into University of Washington's (Seattle, WA) MD-PhD program this summer. She has not yet chosen a PhD lab, but hopes to find one where she can pursue her interests in virology, cancer biology, and global health. She congratulates everybody who will be leaving this summer/fall into the next phase of their lives. You are achieving amazing feats, so take the time to breathe and relish your accomplishments. For those who will be continuing their post-bacs, she wishes you all the best on your exams and applications.

Ashley Pitt, NICHD
Away from the bench, Ashley has been interviewing for doctoral programs in Biochemistry and has been admitted to the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, University of Wisconsin - Madison, and Cornell University.

Vincent Salazar, NHGRI
Vincent has been accepted in the MPH program at George Washington University, Milken School of Public Health in Global Health Policy. The UGSP program afforded him the opportunity to discover this opportunity to not only study in DC, but to get connected to the global organization he hopes to work for during his MPH program.


Where are they now?
Kelechi Ndukwe was a UGSP scholar in 2011-2012. He began his payback shortly after graduating from Lehman College- City University of New York, and spent another year as a Post-Baccalaureate scholar at the NIH. He credits UGSP and the NIH environment with providing him with unlimited opportunities to acquire new research skills and to prepare for his future career in medicine.

At the NIH, Kelechi took advantage of the numerous Translational Research Seminars, Lunch Talks and Ground Rounds. Those channels helped him realize the opportunities that are available as a physician with training in clinical research. He is currently pursuing a joint degree in medicine and a master's degree in Clinical and Translational research at the Medical School of Medical College of Wisconsin.

He also credits the yearlong payback as the major springboard to launch a research career. With an environment that allowed learning and creativity in Dr. Cookson's lab, he was able to make valuable contributions to the project. Most importantly, participating in UGSP at NIH helped his application for Medical School to be more exceptional from his peers. Also, the beautiful memories that he built with fellow scholars in the program is what he says he would not trade for anything.

His advice to current and future scholars is: identify the research area you are passionate about, look for the right mentor(s), do your work diligently and remember to enjoy your time at the NIH with your peers.


Activities to do around DC
While your research work and career development are the top priorities of the UGSP payback period, we understand how essential developing a good work-life balance is for this training period and beyond. We asked several UGSP paybacks what they do to relax outside of lab:

  • Vince Salazar raves about the many amazing biking and walking trails along various streams and river inlets throughout this area. He recommends looking on a local map and taking a walk or bike ride to unwind.
  • Angela Davis likes cooking and baking at home. She also participates in group activities like Go Kart racing in Crofton, visiting monuments in downtown DC, and enjoying happy hour with her lab mates in various restaurants in Bethesda including Paladar, Rosa Mexican, and Jaleo.
  • Manjot Bagri enjoys several activities in the Rockville/Gaithersburg, MD area including the Rio, a collection of shops, a movie theater, and a scenic view of the surrounding landscaping and pond nearby. She also recommend visiting Rockville Town Center, which features a beautiful ice-skating rink, public library, and restaurants from variety of cultural cuisines. There are a variety of gyms and exercise studios featuring Zumba, a dance cardio class-Manjot recommends Studio Fiesta.
  • Kingsley Asiedu suggests trying out the running (and walking/biking) trail around the perimeter of the main NIH campus or practicing yoga. He also enjoys the free performances at the Kennedy Center and Jazz in the Garden (in late spring and summer at the Smithsonian Gardens). He recommends visiting the National Gallery of Art in downtown DC as well.
  • Haroon Popal is all about the music and enjoys shows at U Street Music Hall, 9:30 Club, the Black Cat, and the Echo Stage.
  • Jessica Mann stays active running and walking when the weather permits, and attending gym classes like step and boot camp. She taps into her inner bookworm by participating in a monthly book club-which forces her to find time to read recreationally.