Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Students Find Out if They are Sure About Research Career

Ruth Cummins authored the following essay for UMC. 

Maggie Stanford is putting in 40-hour weeks in a University of Mississippi Medical Center laboratory, in part to answer a question: Do I want to be a career researcher?

So is Oscar Dunaway. And Micaiah McDonald. And 44 more undergraduate students from across the country taking part in the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience, or SURE.

A 10-week program sponsored by the UMMC School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences, SURE trains undergrads in biomedical science research, pairing them with a faculty or doctoral student mentor that prepares them to fly on their own as they tackle hands-on projects and protocols. They present their research during a symposium at summer’s end.

“I’ve done research under one of my chemistry professors, but definitely nothing like this,” said Stanford, a Leonville, La., resident and rising senior at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, La.

Her SURE project involves scrutinizing DNA in the brain to determine how it changes if the person is taking the drug Prozac. She’s putting DNA into a gel, then looking at the gel under a blacklight. In this case, Stanford said, “if you see the DNA, that means that section of the research isn’t working. If it doesn’t show up, you can move forward.”

SURE began in 2008 with 27 students. Participants must be current college students, including high school graduates about to enter their freshman year, and are selected based on their desire to do research and the number of mentors available.

The work of Stanford and other SURE students gives them a good introduction to basic molecular biology techniques that they can take anywhere a research career leads them, said Dr. Eric Vallender, associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior and Stanford’s mentor.

“This is to give them experience and to see what life in the lab really is,” Vallender said. “We hope it ignites a passion for science and helps them gain confidence as a scientist. And, we hope to get them back here as a PhD student or as a scientist.”

SURE “has been a great pipeline, not just for the graduate school, but for others” including the Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, said Jessie Bowman, SURE’s director and a project manager in SGSHS.

It gives students a snapshot of what graduate education looks like, said Dr. Hanna Broome, SGSHS associate dean for student affairs and recruitment and assistant professor of Cell and Molecular Biology.

“We tell the students that they will each have a different experience, working in a different lab environment,” she said. “They’ll come in as a novice, but their mentor and the lab personnel training them will empower them in first learning two or three protocols.

“They will start to master them in the first four or five weeks, and then they’ll be given more autonomy with their own mini-project. They’ll have the autonomy to set up an entire experiment and collect data.”

Dunaway, a Clinton resident who graduates in August from Mississippi State University with a degree in biomedical engineering, has gained confidence in his abilities as a researcher as he eyes applying for medical school in the near future.

“I heard about SURE through a friend. He said it would be a wonderful program that allows me to get research experience in a way that I wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else,” said Dunaway. “He said you’d feel like you’ve been a researcher for years. I’m getting a lot out of this program, and I’m having a really good time.”

His research? “I’m working on a very special biomaterial that needs to have its surface altered so that it can better mesh with bone cells to be used in bone implants,” Dunaway said. “It’s a work in progress, but good progress. We’re inching closer to our goal.”

His mentors are Dr. Scott Williamson, associate professor in the School of Dentistry’s Department of Biomedical Materials Science, and Dr. Kadie Nobles, a postdoctoral research fellow in Biomedical Materials Science. “They have taught me everything I know now in this program,” Dunaway said. “I owe many thanks to the people who have taken time out of their schedule to teach me about the lab.”

McDonald, a Jackson resident and rising senior at Alcorn State University, is getting what she wants from the summer: A new experience.

“I’m learning about telemetry and sequencing. I’ve learned how to use a pipette,” she said. Her mentor is Dr. Licy Yanes, associate professor of Cell and Molecular Biology.

McDonald is putting test subjects on a “western” diet high in sugar and calories to see if their blood kidney injury molecule levels, or KIM-1, used to gauge kidney injury, become higher or lower. “I enjoy being in the lab and being able to do projects on my own,” she said.

Students’ training in data analysis will help them to make conclusions on their research by the end of the summer, Broome said. “You hear every year that the students are very proud of their accomplishments and the skills they’ve gained with little supervision,” she said. “We have lots of students who come back for a second year, maybe a third year, and they will often work with the same mentor.”

Research is a life skill, not just for scientists, but for everyone, Yanes said.

“I think all the students share one thing– the need to learn something, and to be good at it,” she said. “It’s refreshing every summer when they come to the lab. They ask questions. They have a different perspective. I’m excited about this new generation of scientists. They really want to make an impact.”

Students taking part receive a bimonthly stipend to help cover living expenses. They have the opportunity to live in a Millsaps College dormitory for an affordable fee, thanks to an agreement between the school and UMMC.

“We’re always looking for ways to improve the program,” Broome said. “This summer for the first time, we’re bringing in a local professional speaker, Mandi Stanley, to do a seminar that addresses best practices for networking. That’s adding professional development to address a weak area that students feel like they have.”’

The relationships built through SURE pay off for both students and the SGSHS.

“It’s great for my resume,” McDonald said. “I want to apply to graduate school at UMMC and do research, anesthesia or both.”

“She works hard. She has very good questions,” Yanes said of her mentee. “She seems to be passionate about research. I’d love to see what her story will be in research and in the medical field. She will do great.”



Anonymous said...

My daughter earned her PHD from UMMC in bioscience research and is now a VP at a large biomedical research company in the Northwest. The research programs at UMMC are outstanding.

Anonymous said...

Brain drain daughter! Was she drawn to that Liberal part of the country to get the hell out of Christian-racist Mississippi? Yep. And the only one to benefit is UMMC, Oxford, and your daughter's liberal ego. Typical.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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