By Alissa Kocer
Eight underclassmen from universities across North Carolina spent their summer at Duke and North Carolina Central University (NCCU) getting their first dose of real lab experience. They presented their research findings in a poster presentation on July 26.
The Center for Genomic and Computational Biology (GCB) and the Center for Applied Genomics and Precision Medicine (CAGPM) partnered with NCCU for the second annual Summer Scholars Program in Genome Sciences and Medicine, supported by the National Human Genome Research Institute at NIH. The program is designed for full-time first- and second-year underrepresented minority students to provide a high-quality mentored training experience in a STEM-related field.
“It was a bit challenging at first,” said Summer Scholar Dezmond Garrett, “but I was able to see what research in the lab was like and see if it was for me.”
This was the first lab experience for many of this year’s Summer Scholars, and it helped shape and refine what they want to do with the rest of their college experiences and careers. “It made me realize how much research I want to do on a daily basis,” Alexandria Scott said. “I need more experience, but this enhanced my vigor to stay in science.”
Each summer scholar was assigned to a faculty mentor and research project based on their interests. This year’s mentors were Raluca Gordân, Ju-ahng Lee, Gregory Cole, Hiro Matsunami, Tim Veldman, Ornit Chiba-Falek, Ashley Chi and Paul Magwene.
For one Summer Scholar, the research was personal. Jonathan Harpe worked with Tim Veldman on epilepsy research. “This research relates to me because I have epilepsy,” Harpe said. “I learned a lot about how the research can be improved and how big of a need there is for it.” Harpe, a biology pre-med and psychology major, now sees himself conducting more research in his future career and education plans. “I want to do clinical work and be hands-on with patients, but I want to make sure I look into more research opportunities during undergrad and graduate school,” Harpe said.
When the students weren’t in the lab, they attended a bi-weekly seminar at NCCU and weekly lunch seminars. They also had the opportunity to tour the Duke School of Nursing and attend a sequencing workshop with the Sequencing and Genomic Technologies Shared resource. For fun, the group had a movie night, attended a Durham Bulls baseball game, went to the Escape Room and even had a line dancing working shop.
This year’s Summer Scholars hailed from Duke, NCCU, University of North Carolina – Greensboro, and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. “It was nice to meet people from other schools,” Duke student Natalie Ezem said. “We spent the entire summer together, and it was amazing to interact, live and learn with them. They are some of my close friends now.”