MSU ASCEND Scholars participate in summer research experiences at institutions

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By Gillian Silver

The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic did not slow down Morgan State University’s ASCEND Scholars this summer. The following students were able to continue their summer research with institutions that made the experiences possible and intellectually rewarding. 

Christabelle Agyapong (Medical Laboratory Science, Class of 2021) participated in the BUILD Research Collaborative (BRC) through San Francisco State University, organized by Dr Kala Mehta. 

“My 2020 summer research internship was one for the books! I was given the opportunity to work in the interesting field of bioinformatics and coding. I worked with the amazing Dr. Kala Mehta and a great team of undergraduates and graduate near peer mentors in the NIH BUILD Program. This summer, I analyzed national COVID-19 data and created statistical graphics using the computer programming language R and RStudio. By using the data and this program, I was able create a map of the cases in Maryland and the homeless population in Maryland. Through this, I analyzed to see if there was a correlation between the two factors. In conclusion, we hope to see if the places that have a high homeless population have a high rate of COVID-19 cases. This was an exciting summer in research and definitely one that I won’t forget. This research opened my eyes to bioinformatics and the health disparities in the America healthcare system.”

Rolling Zebazde (Biology, Class of 2020) also participated in the BRC

Rolling Zebazde, Biology, Class of 2020                              

“During my time in the BUILD Research Collaboratory, I learned multiple new skills such as the basics of programming via R studios, intermediate and advanced statistical analysis, and reviewed recent published COVID-19 data. I was also introduced to multiple data analysts and political activists who discussed how COVID-19 has disproportionately affected certain minority groups.”

Agyapong, Zebazde, and the other BRC student researchers from across the country presented their research at a virtual conference on Wednesday, August 12.

Deja Caton (Biology, Class of 2022) did her internship at the State University of New York Downstate Health Sciences University in the laboratory of Andreas Hochwagen, Ph.D., in the biology department. 

“This summer I was blessed enough to have the opportunity to participate at an internship at New York University’s biology department. I was assigned a mentor [Temistocles Molinar Jr., PhD student] and learned everything about his research regarding extracellular DNA circles & their quantitative impact on us. Sadly, I could not physically be in the Hochwagen Lab, but this did not stop the learning process one bit. My amazing mentor, Temi, virtually showed me around that lab while giving me a glimpse into his research. I also learned coding using R along with many useful skills. I took advantage of my resources and asked as many questions as I could. Though this summer internship was not where I expected it to be, it was overall an amazing experience.”

Layschel Kemp (Psychology, Class of 2021) interned in the laboratory Arie Kruglanski, Ph.D., at the University of Maryland, College Park. 

“This summer I served as a research intern with the University of Maryland BSOS-SRI (summer research initiative). I worked in the Motivation Cognition lab with Dr. Arie Kruglanski along with social psychology graduate student Jessica Fernandez. During the summer I developed and ran my own pilot study examining significance quest theory in college student experiences and achievement. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic we were not able to move onto campus, but we still participated in weekly Zoom workshops that focused on the graduate school admission process and other topics surrounding graduate school.”

Nashae Prout (Health Education with a concentration in Environmental Health, Class of 2021) continued an internship that she joined immediately as the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning to be recognized worldwide in March with the BroadStreet COVID-19 project. 

“It was a very eye-opening experience to see the way that the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has been handled in the United States. Handing data on a state and county level for the southeast region of the United States gave me real surveillance based epidemiologic experience. I was also able to work with a team of my fellow interns to make sure data input, quality assurances, and special projects got completed. One of the special projects I did was create a pamphlet  to be sent out to legislators regarding the data related irregularities and a lack of consistency across the US regarding the publication and dissemination of pandemic related data. My experience at BroadStreet Health was not the summer I expected but I appreciated it nonetheless.”

Seanasia Baronette (Applied Liberal Studies, Class of 2020) participated in the University of Maryland, Baltimore County BUILD a Bridge to STEM program for four weeks during the summer, with the project continuing from late August through November this fall.

She conducted research in the laboratory of Fredrick Larabee, Ph.D., (College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences) on the detection of pharmaceuticals, personal care products, endocrine disrupting chemicals, and other contaminants in natural and engineered systems. Specifically, they analyzed urban watersheds in Maryland and the greater Chesapeake Bay to identify and measure “transformation products”—if water is treated to remove antibiotics, does the treated water still display some properties of those antibiotics? Seanasia presented data from her project at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) in November during the virtual conference.

Tresherr Reaves (Biology, Class of 2021) interned at the University of Pittsburgh’s Pittsburgh Undergraduate Research Diversity Program (PURDIP). 

“The PURDIP Program has been a unique experience that I am grateful to have the opportunity to have experienced. Having the summer learning experience online demonstrated that learning can take place anywhere and that it is about what you put in, that you get out of it. I committed 10 hours per week to the program, along with participating in Zoom calls throughout the week that gave me insight on analyzing research papers, creating/presenting presentations, translational research, scientific misconduct, and more. From the research question, to the data and clinical trial supported drug administration to patient, PURDIP put the scientific field in perspective, allowing me to see exactly what each area entailed and what role I aspire to play in it. Over the course of the past ten weeks, I have heard many inspiring professors discuss their journey to who they are today, as well as talk about their research that has only motivated me further. I have gained information and skills that will be necessary to use on my path to become a researcher/physician.”

The Diversity Program Consortium Coordination and Evaluation Center at UCLA is supported by Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health / National Institutes of General Medical Sciences under award number U54GM119024.
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