Going the Distance

Summer Scholars  - Genome Sciences and Medicine for Underrepresented Minority Students
GCB News

Going the Distance

Three Summer Scholars students take their research beyond Duke
By Alissa Kocer

After spending 10 weeks at Duke, three Summer Scholars, Ednan Ochieng, Alexandria Scott and Kennedy Lofton, presented  their research to the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) in Anaheim, California, November 13 – 16.

Ednan Ochieng standing next to scientific posterEdnan Ochieng is a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. As a Summer Scholar, he worked closely with Tiffany Ho in Raluca Gordân’s lab on research focused on accurately and comprehensively characterizing the critical features important for modeling transcription factor-DNA binding to help better understand gene expression. He presented his Summer Scholars poster at ABRCMS and was recognized for his presentation abilities with a certificate of achievement.

Initially, Ochieng wasn’t even sure the Summer Scholars Program was right for him. “I was reluctant to apply to the program because it had nothing to do with what I was studying in college,” he said, “but I got in and decided to see what would happen.” While Ochieng may not trade in his mechanical engineering major for biology, this experience made him more interested in computer science.

Alexandria Scott is a sophomore studying biomedical science at North Carolina Central University (NCCU). She spent her summer in Paul Magwene’s lab researching variation in capsule size across various genetic strains of Cryptococcus neoformans and Cryptocuccus deneoformans. Specifically, she spent time this summer exploring genes that putatively control the capsule size using Quantitative Trait Locus (QTL) analysis of the capsule size variation. At ABRCMS, she was awarded a certificate of achievement in recognition for an outstanding presentation of her research.

Kennedy Lofton is a sophomore majoring in pharmaceutical sciences, also at NCCU. Lofton worked in Ornit Chiba-Falek’s lab on research centered around late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Specifically, she focused on whether methylation affects APOE gene expression in patients with Alzheimer’s disease using MethylEpic microarrays.

Kennedy Lofton standing next to a wall that says ABRCMS 2019, Anaheim, California, November 13-16, 2019

The Summer Scholars Program in Genome Sciences and Medicine is a collaboration between the Duke Center for Genomic and Computational Biology (GCB), The Duke Center for Applied Genomics and Precision Medicine (CAGPM) and NCCU. It is supported by the National Human Genome Research Institute at NIH through an R25 award.

“The hands-on research experience and direct interactions with researchers provides a full-time and well-rounded exposure to careers in genome sciences and medicine early in their undergraduate study,” Chiba-Falek said. “These insights are impactful and will become handy for students in deciding career goals and in planning how to achieve them.”

The Summer Scholars Program is currently accepting applications for next summer. The application deadline is January 15, 2020.

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