Annual Summer Research Program Hosts Best and Brightest from Across Nation
(COLLEGE STATION, TX)—As it has done for more than 30 years, the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine hosted its annual Summer Research Program on Wednesday, August 18 at the Joe H. Reynolds Medical Building in College Station. From the 150 applicants, the College of Medicine chose 20 current medical students and 10 undergraduate students from across the United States to present posters of their biomedical research.
“We make a special effort to recruit undergraduate students, especially underrepresented students, to the Summer Research Program to showcase the College of Medicine and its graduate training,” said Warren Zimmer, Ph.D., Director of the Summer Research Program and Professor of Systems Biology and Translational Medicine. “Our hope is that those students then return to the College of Medicine for further research and education opportunities.”
“The Summer Research Program does more than encourage collaboration and scientific inquiry among students,” said T. Sam Shomaker, M.D., J.D., Dean of Medicine and Vice President for Clinical Affairs for the Texas A&M Health Science Center. “It brings together the best and brightest students at the earliest opportunity and exposes them to biomedical research, medical education and graduate education. From there, the students’ possibilities are limitless.”
Participants, who started working in February to identify their projects, select mentors and collect data, displayed posters of their work in the Reynolds Building lobby. The program kicked off at 9:00 a.m., and a group of more than 100 students, professors and mentors discussed projects on leukemia, prostate cancer, epilepsy, memory and aging, Alzheimer’s disease and autism spectrum disorder among others. For the students and mentors, this was the culmination of months of hard work, and Dr. Zimmer credits the program’s enduring success to the support of all the faculty mentors.
James F. Martin, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Molecular and Cellular Medicine and Interim Director of the Center for Molecular Development and Disease at the Institute of Biosciences and Technology in Houston delivered the keynote address on the molecular and cellular biology of heart development. Having both M.D. and Ph.D. degrees, Dr. Martin was able to demonstrate to undergraduates and medical students alike how his research in basic science principles using molecular techniques directly translated into a diagnostic and potential therapeutic method to treat patients with heart abnormalities.
Following Dr. Martin’s address, Dr. Zimmer presented the Dean’s Recognition Awards and $100 to Soumili Chatterjee, an undergraduate student from the University of Houston Downtown mentored by Jun-yuan Ji, Ph.D. and his lab in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Medicine; second-year medical student Matthew Jenson mentored by Vernon Tesh, Ph.D. and his lab in the Department of Microbial and Molecular Pathogenesis; and second-year medical student Laura Weaver mentored by Brett Mitchell, Ph.D. and his lab in the Department of Internal Medicine for their outstanding research projects. Dr. Zimmer then distributed certificates of completion to each of the participants.
“I had a great experience in the Summer Research Program,” said Jenson. “The mentors do a great job getting you involved in their fields of expertise. I also learned a lot about the process of scientific and medical research, and I know I’ll be a better physician because of my participation in the Summer Research Program.”
“The Summer Research Program combined academic and clinical medicine, and it helped me realize, ‘Wow, this is real!’” said second-year medical student Bryce Busenlehner. “It also helped me realize that my career in medicine won’t always be studying and memorizing facts; I’ll be uniting academic facts with clinical medicine.”
“All of the participants worked extremely hard during the program,” said Dr. Zimmer. “Ultimately they got a chance to receive valuable critical feedback on their projects and enhance their careers in clinical and scientific research.”