June 04, 2015

SIBS, PARAdiGM programs introduce undergraduates to biomedical research

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For Thomas Bailey, a senior majoring in biomedical engineering at UAB, returning for a second year in the Preparation for Graduate and Medical Education program was a given. 

gorelick lab webMashhood Wani, a biochemistry major at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, is participating in the UAB Summer in Biomedical Sciences Undergraduate Research Program. He'll work in the lab with his faculty mentor Daniel A. Gorelick, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology. “I just had so much fun last summer, not just in researching, but in shadowing Dr. Colin Martin, a pediatric surgeon and physician-scientist,” Bailey said.  “I was amazed to see just how much work goes into being a pediatric surgeon at Children’s of Alabama, as well as being a physician-scientist.”

Bailey is one of 30 students from universities across the country are participating this summer in either the Summer in Biomedical Sciences (SIBS) Undergraduate Research Program or the Preparation for Graduate and Medical Education (PARAdiGM) programs that kicked off Monday, June 1.  The two, 8-week programs provide sophomore and junior-level undergraduate students interested in biomedical sciences with hands-on scientific and clinical experience working with UAB faculty mentors.

The goal is to help undergraduate students determine if graduate school, medical school or a physician-scientist training program is the next step in their academic careers, said Robin Lorenz, M.D., Ph.D., director of the SIBS and PARAdiGM programs and assistant dean for Physician-Scientist Education in the School of Medicine.

“We look for students who seem to have that spark or drive to think that they want to do science, and we pair them with a faculty mentor to work for the summer in the laboratory,” Lorenz said. “We also do some career development activities with them so they learn how to apply to graduate school, an M.D./Ph.D. program or medical school, so it gives them a leg up on how to get to the next stage of their career.”

Dana Pham-Hua, a biochemistry major at UAB participating in SIBS, is the type of driven student the SIBS program seeks to recruit.

“This summer I’m not taking many classes, so I wanted to have some experience in research,” said Pham-Hua, who will be researching Type 1 diabetes and the immunology side effects of the disease with Hubert Tse, Ph.D., assistant professor of Microbiology.

While both the SIBS and PARAdiGM programs offer summer shadowing experience in the lab, the PARAdiGM program specifically recruits students from minority backgrounds who are underrepresented in the sciences. With a more extensive shadowing requirement, PARAdiGM students are given a clinical mentor, as well as a research mentor. For Bailey, he’ll be working with his mentors Palaniappan Sethu, Ph.D., associate professor of Medicine in the Division of Cardiovascular Disease, and Adam Wende, assistant professor of Pathology in the Division of Molecular and Cellular Pathology to research regenerative heart tissue in cardiovascular disease.

The PARAdiGM experience was rewarding last summer for returning student Alana Jones, a senior from Howard University double majoring in Latin and biology.

“My favorite part about last summer was working in the lab because I had really supportive mentors,” Jones said. She worked on a research project last summer studying inflammatory pathways in cells exposed to high amounts of oxygen. She will continue this research this summer as a returning PARAdiGM undergraduate student.

Five of the summer students are part of the SIBS Undergraduate Pathology Scholars (SIBS-UPS) Program, an investment from the Department of Pathology that chooses students under the SIBS infrastructure to expose them to hypothesis-driven research in the department and possible recruitment to UAB graduate training programs.

Daniel Bolus, a sophomore studying biomedical engineering at Tulane University, is excited to pursue his passion for cellular pathways through his work in the SIBS-UPS program with his mentor Raj Soorappan, Ph.D., assistant professor of Pathology in the Division of Molecular and Cellular Pathology.

 “I appreciate that I will be able to work with pathology and cellular pathways in my research here at UAB,” Bolus said. “I’m looking forward to working in a lab setting because I’ve never been given the opportunity to work in a lab. Working with Dr. Raj is going to be fun and exciting.”