STaRS Students Present Research Following Intensive Summer Program

The Summer Training as Research Scholars (STaRS) program concluded its 10-week research experience with a symposium on Thursday, Aug. 10 in Hiebert Lounge.

Four students presented their research to fellow STaRS participants, mentors and interested medical campus community members. Keyona Pointer, a first year student at BUSM, took time out of class to present her work completed in the infectious diseases lab. Jenesis Gayden, a rising senior at Syracuse University, worked with the anatomy and neurobiology department to study tauopathy, a neurodegenerative disease. Luis Marquez, a student at Xavier University of Louisiana, studied traumatic brain injuries and the prevalence of such injuries across various demographics. The individual presentation portion of the symposium concluded with Andres Lojano-Bermeo describing his research in the infectious diseases laboratory.

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The STaRS program, which is run by the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences (GMS), is funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institutes of the NIH. It has trained 67 scholars over its four-year duration and has received more than 1,400 applications. In the program, trainees work with faculty and fellow students on cutting-edge biomedical research projects, build powerful and lasting relationships and set a course for college and career success. Each week, students work alongside mentors in their assigned laboratories, present their research at weekly meetings known as “journal club” and attend seminars aimed at preparing them for professional life after college.

Bria Landry, a rising senior at Xavier University of Louisiana is interested in studying neurology. She worked with Hui Feng, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology and medicine, on neuroblastoma in leukemia. Landry said she chose the STaRS program because she wanted to “expand [her] horizons” in research and medicine. This was Landry’s first time in Boston and she said that although the experience was a big lifestyle change at first, she is now grateful she chose to be part of the program.

“You have to be ready to come in with an open mind and the willingness to be taken completely out of your comfort zone, and to do something great that you will remember for a lifetime,” she said. “I feel like I can do anything now.”

Diego Trujillo, a rising junior at the University of New Mexico who worked on a project focused on addiction genetics, said participating in the STaRS program has opened up post-grad opportunities for him that he had not considered.

“Before this program I was planning on pursuing an MD, but after completing this program I’m actually considering going to graduate school to get my PhD,” he added, “Just getting this exposure to the research end of things has really opened my eyes.”

A total of 14 undergraduates from across the county were accepted into the STaRS program for the summer of 2017. The program also included five current first- and second-year medical students and one MD/PhD candidate at BUSM. STaRS received more than 600 applications this year, for a final class of 19 students.

This summer, STaRS mentors included: Rhoda Au, PhD; Steven Borkan, MD; Francesca Seta, PhD; Andrew Wilson, MD; Jeffrey  Siracuse, MD, RPVI; Matt Layne, PhD; Jennie Luebke, PhD; Jiyoun Kim, MD; Feng Hui, MD, PhD; Lee Wetzler, MD;  Richard Wainford, PhD;  Andrew Henderson, PhD; Deborah Sterns-Kurosawa, PhD; Camron Bryant, PhD; Karin Schon, PhD; Vickery Trinkaus-Randall, PhD; Hasmeena Kathuria, MD; Jean-Bosco Tagne, PhD and Lee Quinton, PhD.

Following the individual presentations other STaRS students displayed posters and discussed their work. At the symposium conclusion students received certificates to mark the completion of the program.

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“You were here at a really exciting time for us, so I hope you got to experience everything from the lab to Fenway Park,” said GMS Associate Provost Linda Hyman, PhD. “We now consider you part of the BU family.”

Maria Ramirez, PhD, STaRS director and associate professor of medicine, said she has enjoyed watching the students grow throughout the program.

“I hope you have enjoyed this experience,” she said. “I am happy to see that the group we selected has been successful and stood up to the challenge of being away from where you’re comfortable, and doing research for the first time.”