Scientist A CAREER GUIDE FOR UNDERREPRESENTED SCIENCE GRADUATES
Volume 6 | 2011
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Scientist A CAREER GUIDE FOR UNDERREPRESENTED SCIENCE GRADUATES
The Young Scientist is published annually by Spectrum Publishers. Subscription rates: $10 per year. Copyright 2011 Spectrum Publishing. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the consent of the publisher. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the magazine managers or owners.The appearance of advertisements in the publication does not constitute endorsement of the product or company. SPECTRUM UNLIMITED 1194-A Buckhead Crossing Woodstock, GA 30189 (770) 852-2671 fax: (770) 924-4327 JMMSmag@aol.com www.spectrumpublishers.com PUBLISHER Bill Bowers EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Laura L. Scholes firstname.lastname@example.org SENIOR ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE Gail Davis ART DIRECTOR Jeff Garrett COPY EDITOR Robert Wilder Blue MARKETING DIRECTOR Erica Perkins
How? Now that’s the Question!
How do you become a scientist? Practice, Practice, Practice!
Advice to a young scientist
Programs that help your career in science
Want to go to Grad School? Timing is everything!
2011 Gilliam Fellows
Gilliam Fellow Profile - Nicolas Altemose
Gilliam Fellow Profile - Sandra Jones
Gilliam Fellow Profile - Chinweike Okegbe
Making it Big as a Forensic Scientist
Gilliam Fellow Profile - Espoir Kyubwa
Gilliam Fellow Profile - Gloria Tavera
Another Day, Another Neuron: Becoming a Neuroscientist
Gilliam Fellow Profile - Nadia Herrera
Seven Steps to Becoming a Great Scientist
Resources for Minorities in Science
PUBLISHER’S ADVISOR Michelle Perkins, MD EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT TO THE PUBLISHER Amy Harrison
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Now that’s the question!
When you start thinking about pursuing a career in science, probably the f irst thing you hear is: “That’s great! You’ve always been so curious!” And yes, curiosity is critical for a scientist. It’s hard to imagine someone developing a cure for polio or a treatment for breast cancer without it. But the question that really defines the scientist persona isn’t why, it’s how. That’s because it’s the “how” that reflects the long, rigorous process of getting from the curiosity about why something is the way it is to the solution. The “why” is the spark; the “how” is
University of NOrth Carolina
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This issue of The Young Scientist will fan your flame with tips, info and inspiration to help you more easily navigate the way to a science career.
Discovery Read! The best way to make sure you don’t get too bogged down in your own very narrow research area is to read recent papers in your field—and outside.
an inoculating loop INBRE fellow Alonzo Rivas of Boise State uses to ‘grab’ a laboratory sample.
Characteristics of a Scientist •Curious •Imaginative •Enthusiastic •Intelligent •Hardworking •Persistent •Has Integrity •Resilient •Passionate
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How do you become a scientist?
Practice, Practice, Practice! By Mike Brotherton Get top grades First of all, get top grades throughout school. If you can’t manage to be a straight-A student, or haven’t been in the past, you have to prioritize at least your math and science classes and work hard. Impress your science teachers. Do more than the minimum. This isn’t just passing a class—this is your passion and your future career! You ought to love it, and it need not feel like a sacrifice. Frankly, if putting extra effort into your science classes seems like work, you don’t love science enough to make it a career. You’re better off following another interest.
Read and do science Beyond your classes, read and do science! Participate in science fairs. Read books about science. Watch documentaries about science. Participate in citizen science projects online, such as Galaxy Zoo. Science, science, science! Read and watch science fiction, too, if it inspires your science interest.
Go to best schools you can Go to the best schools you can at every stage. Science is an academic discipline. Although industry does support many scientists in many fields, that’s generally post-PhD. Take your top grades, your science activities on your transcript, glowing recommendation letters from your science teachers, and get into the best college you can afford to attend that has a top department in your field of interest. There are a lot of online resources, and it isn’t that hard to figure out which departments are good and recognized in different fields or subfields.
In college, GPA is paramount In college, your goal should be to keep a GPA above 3.5 in your field of interest. Avoid double majoring unless you have a real double passion and can see a niche in the overlap. You should pursue research with a star professor in the department, who is likely to have grant money and can support your work financially as well as intellectually. Work for that star professor in the summers, and try to do a summer research program (or two!) before graduation. Ideally, this will result in one or more publications and several glowing letters of recommendation. Coupled with top grades and GRE scores
Work for that star professor in the summers, and try to do a summer reserach program before graduation. (a side effect of studying hard for your major classes), this should get you into a top graduate school. I know it isn’t always that easy, but if science is your passion, you’ll love the work and it’ll be fun.
Reality check I want to note that some people discover they like science but don’t love doing science as a practical matter. If hours, days, weeks, or even months of doing tedious, careful, boring work is too much to pay for digging out one of nature’s tightly held secrets, you may not be cut out to be a scientist. For me, I’ll wade through a lot of muckiness in order to finally put together a graph showing whether or not my hypothesis is a good one, and its prediction is borne out. If you won’t, reconsider your future. If you will, you’ll do good work, make good results, and be welcomed as a fellow scientist.
Check out Mike’s website: www.mikebrotherton.com
Discovery You don’t have to go the premed route to choose a career in science. Figure out what you love and what you’re good at and tailor your education accordingly.
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Advice to a young scientist
by Dimitrios Trichopoulos, PhD Harvard School of Public Health
1. Be strong and work hard. Whether you will be successful or not is largely a matter of chance. But some resources are more measurable: your natural talent, your intellect, your effort, perseverance, and persistence. The difference made to our accomplishments by effort, perseverance, and persistence is twice or even three times greater than the difference made by raw physical talent. Natural talent matters. But without effort, your intellect won’t get you very far.
2. Don’t give up – persevere. The second important issue is not to be defeated by failures. In professional life, there are moments of brilliance, moments of success, but there is also an endless accumulation of failures. The important lesson is not to be disappointed. The ability to face life the day after a small catastrophe with the same optimism and strength is very important. When something nice happens to us, we tend to be happy for just a few hours, while unhappiness continues for a number of days. We should fight the asymmetry between unhappiness and happiness. Whenever an unfortunate event happens, remember that you’re young, smart, and successful, and that happiness lies ahead of you.
3. Never be offensive; let ideas fight and confront each other. You are becoming the critics, perhaps the ultimate arbitrators, but be gentle in this role. As a scientist, you should never be hard in your criticisms—not to others, and not to yourselves. Dr. Trichopoulos is the Vincent L. Gregory Professor of Cancer Prevention Department of Epidemiology. This comes from his graduation talk at the Netherlands Institute for Health Sciences.
Discovery Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Only by working through your inevitable mistakes will you be able to reach your goals.
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Getting your science career into focus Programs that can help
National Institute of General Medical Sciencesâ€™ MARC Program The Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) training program offers an extraordinary opportunity for minority students seeking careers in biomedical research. This program is run by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, National Institutes of Health. The goals of the program are to provide first-rate research training to undergraduate participants, to place undergraduates into respected graduate programs, and to ensure their success in those programs. To achieve these goals, the program will provide MARC Scholars with a solid curriculum, strong intramural and extramural research experience, personalized career and academic advisement, and experience in presenting research data at national professional meetings. Scholars will also gain exposure to a broad range of biomedical researchers through an enhanced seminar series in the Department of Biological Science. One of the features of the program is that MARC Scholars will have the opportunity to work with outstanding faculty members from biological science, chemistry, biochemistry, bioengineering, biophysics, mathematics, computer science, and psychology. These faculty members will serve as mentors and thesis committee members. For more information: http://www. nigms.nih.gov/Training/MARC/USTARAwards.htm
Other NIGMS Programs The Bridges to the Baccalaureate Degree initiative is aimed at helping students make the transition from
two-year junior or community colleges to full four-year baccalaureate programs. The program targets students from groups underrepresented in the biomedical and behavioral research enterprise of the nation and/or populations disproportionately affected by health disparities. It promotes partnerships between two-year colleges and institutions that award baccalaureate degrees in areas of science relevant to biomedical and behavioral research. The Bridges to the Doctorate Program initiative is aimed at helping students make the transition from masterâ€™s degree programs to PhD programs. The program targets students from groups underrepresented in the biomedical and behavioral research enterprise of the nation and/or populations disproportionately affected by health disparities. It promotes partnerships between institutions that award the M.S. degree as the terminal degree and universities that award the PhD degree. The Initiative for Maximizing Student Development seeks to increase the number of students from underrepresented groups in biomedical and behavioral research who complete PhD degrees in these fields. The program offers an opportunity to develop new or expand existing effective academic developmental programs, including student research internships, in order to prepare students from underrepresented groups for competitive research careers and leadership positions in the biomedical or behavioral sciences. Awards are made to domestic, private, and public educa-
Emory tional institutions that are involved in biomedical research and training. The institutions select the students to be supported. The Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement seeks to increase the number of students from groups underrepresented in biomedical and behavioral research who complete PhD degree programs in these fields. The program supports institutional grants with well integrated developmental activities that may include, but are not limited to, research experiences at onor off-campus laboratories, specialty courses with a focus on critical thinking and development of research skills, collaborative learning experiences, research careers seminars, scientific reading comprehension and writing skills, tutoring for excellence, and travel to scientific meetings. Support is also
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available for evaluation activities. The Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) seeks to encourage underrepresented minorities who hold a recent baccalaureate degree in a biomedically relevant science to pursue a research doctorate. PREP participants work as apprentice scientists in a preceptor’s laboratory and participate in student development and education activities. This program is expected to strengthen the research skills and academic competitiveness of participants for pursuit of a graduate degree, while also stimulating them to have an interest in addressing the health problems that disproportionately affect minorities and the medically underserved in the United States. For information about these and other NIGMS programs: http://www.nigms.nih.gov/Research/FeaturedPrograms/ Minority/
The Leadership Alliance The Leadership Alliance is an academic consortium of 32 institutions of higher learning, including leading research and teaching college and universities. The mission of the Leadership Alliance is to develop underrepresented students into outstanding leaders and role models in academia, business, and the public sector. They have a great summer program called the Summer Research Early Identification Program (SR-EIP) that offers undergraduates interested in pursuing a PhD or MD/PhD the opportunity to work for eight to ten weeks under the guidance of a faculty or research mentor at a participating Alliance institution. Through this one-on-one collaboration, students gain theoretical knowledge and practical training in academic research and scientific experimentation. The SREIP is designed to encourage students from groups traditionally underrepresented in the sciences, social sciences and humanities to consider research careers in the academic, public, or private sectors. Students are required to present a written report and/or abstract at the end of their summer research activity and complete a program evaluation. All participants are expected to make oral or poster presentations of their research at the Leadership Alliance’s annual national symposium. This all-expense paid summer internship provides students with a competitive stipend, travel, and housing. See their tips for applying to graduate school on page 12. For more information: www.theleadershipalliance.org
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Discovery Some days your work will be amazing. Some days it will be demoralizing. But most days, it’s just, well, work. Go into your career with a healthy attitude.
Weill Cornell’s Access Summer Research Program The Access program of Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences (WCGS) is a summer internship program that trains underserved college students in the biomedical sciences. Interns gain hands-on experience in a biomedical research laboratory and are encouraged to apply to PhD programs. Selected students are placed in laboratories at the Weill Cornell Medical College under the mentorship of experienced faculty members. In addition to the laboratory experience, students attend lectures and discussions aimed at enhancing their understanding of the current status of biomedical research, the pathways available for entering research careers, and the range of available career opportunities. Students also participate in weekly journal clubs, attend workshops that teach them how to prepare for interviews and seminars, and take part in social activities. For more information: www.weill.cornell.edu/gradschool/ summer/index.html
American Society for Microbiology Undergraduate Research Capstone Program The ASM Undergraduate Research Capstone Program (URCapstone) is the successor program to the ASM-Microbiology Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program, formerly the Minority Undergraduate Research Fellowship program from several years ago. The goal of this program is to “fulfill the later stages of undergraduate professional development” for underrepresented minority students (URM). This program seeks to enhance the presentation skills of students after their research
experiences. The ASM Undergraduate Research Capstone Program (UR-Capstone) will focus on enhancing presentations and networking skills, and provide students with resources to transition to disciplinary scientific meetings. For more information: www.asm.org
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Biomedical Research Training Program for Individuals from Underrepresented Groups (Post-Baccalaureate Individuals) The NHLBI established the Biomedical Research Training Program for Individuals from Underrepresented Groups (BRTPUG) to offer opportunities for underrepresented post-baccalaureate individuals and undergraduate students to receive training in fundamental biomedical sciences and clinical research disciplines. The purpose of the program is to enhance career opportunities in biomedical and behavioral research, including clinical and laboratory medicine, epidemiology, and biostatistics as applied to the etiology and treatment of heart, blood vessel, lung, and blood diseases. BRTPUG offers each participant the opportunity to work closely with leading research scientists in the Division of Intramural Research and extramural scientists in the Division of Prevention and Population Sciences. The program provides students with hands-on training in a research environment,
which will prepare them to continue their studies and advance their careers in clinical and basic research. The program supports recently completed post-baccalaureates or undergraduate students enrolled full-time in an accredited institution, who have completed academic training in course work relevant to biomedical, behavioral, or statistical research. Applicants must have a cumulative grade point average (GPA) or science course GPA of 3.3 or better on a 4.0 scale, or 4.3 or better on a 5.0 scale, and be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. The trainee’s appointment is a one-time appointment of six (two summers) to 24 months over a two-year period beginning the summer of selection. Each trainee is assigned to a mentor who is responsible for designing a carefully planned training program. For more information: www.nhlbi.nih.gov
Tufts University Building Diversity in Biomedical Sciences (BDBS) for Undergraduates The BDBS Program provides a mentored, 10-week research intensive experience for undergraduates who are interested in pursuing PhD or MD/PhD training upon completion of the baccalaureate degree. Although the focus of the BDBS training program is the
The Young Scientist Role Model
JAMES E. WEST Acoustician and Inventor Johns Hopkins University
Jim West studied physics at Temple University, much to the displeasure of his parents, who wanted him to become a doctor. “My father introduced me to three black men who had earned doctorates in chemistry and physics,” says West. “The best jobs they could find were at the post office. My father said I was taking the long road toward working at the post office.” Specializing in microphones, West went on to author 200 patents; in fact, ninety percent of microphones used today are based on the ingenuity of West. In 1962, with Gerhard Sessler, West developed the foil electret microphone. Recently, after a distinguished 40-year career, including stints at Lucent Technologies and as a Bell Laboratories Fellow, West moved to Johns Hopkins University where he is a research professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. West also founded the Association of Black Laboratory Employees.
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research experience, participants receive training in written and oral communication of scientific data and learn about careers in biomedical science through workshops. They are also given guidance in applying to PhD and MD/PhD programs and interact with postbaccalaureate interns, graduate students, and postdoctoral trainees to experience first-hand the process of preparing for a career as a leader in biomedical science. Trainees are fully supported by a stipend and receive on-campus housing during their training. They also enjoy organized social activities that expose them to the Boston area and help build lasting relationships. For more information: http://sackler.tufts.edu/Academics/ Non-Degree-Programs/Summer-Research/Building-Diversityin-Biomedical-Sciences-for-Undergraduates
Massachusetts General Hospital Summer Research Training Program (SRTP) The Summer Research Trainee Program is an eight-week program in which students are paired with a preceptor who will work closely with them, providing guidance and instruction in techniques necessary to address current problems in science and medicine. The student will participate in a new or
ongoing project and assume increasing independence during the course of the program. A stipend of $4000 is provided. For more information: http://www.massgeneral.org/education/internship.aspx?id=5
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Undergraduate Summer Research Internships The Department of Biology and the Department of Brain & Cognitive Sciences at MIT offer a joint ten-week research-intensive summer training program in the biological sciences, neurosciences, or biomedical-related fields to advanced sophomore and junior science majors from other colleges and universities. This summer internship program is funded in part by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the MIT School of Science. Students interested in disciplines with no relevance to biology or neuroscience should apply to the general MIT Summer Research Program (MSRP). The summer program is primarily designed to encourage students from underrepresented minorities, first-generation college students, and students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds to attend graduate school and pursue a career in basic research. The program provides them the opportunity to conduct supervised research in a top-notch
Research knows no boundaries PhD, MD/PhD and Summer Research PhD Program • Interdisciplinary research that creates new areas of science • Personalized mentoring tailored to your professional interests • Exciting yet affordable neighborhood, minutes from Manhattan • Annual stipend and full tuition remission MD/PhD Program (MSTP) • Integrates MD and PhD curricula at every stage • Bridges the gap between medicine and science • Annual stipend and full tuition remission • Summer Undergraduate Research Program Full time summer of research • Enrichment program with faculty lectures & career seminars
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research institution, in a supportive learning environment with plenty of interaction with graduate students and faculty. Over 85% of past participants have enrolled in top graduate programs within two years of completing this summer program. A number of our summer interns have also successfully received three-year predoctoral NSF fellowships, or five-year Gilliam Fellowships. This summer program provides a unique opportunity for students who do not have access to top-notch research facilities at their own institutions to conduct supervised research in a fast-paced environment with state-of-the-art research facilities, and to experience first-hand the social and cultural environment at MIT. Preference will be given to applicants from non-research intensive colleges and universities. For more information: http://mit.edu/biology/www/outreach/summer_research/undergraduates.html
University of Pennsylvania Summer Undergraduate Minority Research Program (SUMR) The SUMR program is an endeavor by the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics (LDI) and the Health Care Management Department of the Wharton School to provide underrepresented minority undergraduate students or anyone who is interested in an opportunity to explore the exciting field of health services research. SUMR scholars earn a stipend of $1200 per month during the summer months for a time commitment of 20 hours per week. The students work with their mentors to devise a schedule that can be flexible to work around other employment. For more information: http://ldi.upenn.edu/sumr
UCLA Intercampus Medical Genetics Training Program Clinical Biochemical Genetics - Clinical Cytogenetics - Clinical Molecular Genetics The UCLA intercampus postdoctoral research training program in Medical Genetics utilizes the resources of itâ€™s affiliated campuses and teaching hospitals to offer a wide variety of research training opportunities in molecular, biochemical, immuno-, Cancer, cyto-, somatic cell, and population genetics. Accredited by the American Board of Medical Genetics in Clinical Biochemical Genetics, Clinical Cytogenetics and Clinical Molecular Genetics, the program is open to academically oriented applicants with an M.D., Ph.D., D.D.S. or equivalent degree. Cytogenetics training takes place on the Cedars-Sinai and UCLA campuses; Molecular genetics takes place at UCLA; and Biochemical genetics training takes place at Childrenâ€™s Hospital of Orange County. The UCLA Intercampus Medical Genetics Training Program is a leading genetics training program in the country and we expect our trainees to become leaders in their fields and excel in clinical laboratory research and academics. We are proud of our diverse group of fellows and faculty and invite you to apply to our program. For information contact: email@example.com or www.uclamedgenticspostdoc.org
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Want to go to Grad School? Timing is everything! Freshman & Sophomore Years
• Take a broad spectrum of introductory science courses (including laboratories): biology, chemistry, physics, math, computer sciences. • Take courses that help develop skills in reading comprehension, writing, and public speaking. • Get involved in research at your home institution (MARC, MBRS, or similar programs). • Establish a good relationship with your school’s health careers advisor or the graduate school advisor at your campus career center. Help them get to know you.
• Take advanced level science courses: cell biology, molecular biology, microbiology, physiology, organic chemistry, biochemistry. • Take liberal arts courses: economics, history, literature, philosophy. • Expand your research experiences with programs such as: »» MARC/MBRS, McNair, Howard Hughes »» summer research programs »» independent study
• Begin preparation for GRE or MCAT. »» Take preparation courses (Kaplan, Princeton Review), review copies of old exams, take timed practice tests. For the GRE, prepare for the computer version. • Take computerized GRE in early fall (September or October) of your fourth year; if required, take appropriate subject test and/or writing assessment at the same time.
• Submit your applications early (be realistic in your choice of programs). »» PhD application by December 15 • If possible, visit the schools, programs, or departments that interest you. • Take advanced level science courses, especially those that are research - and techniques - oriented.
The Young Scientist Role Model
LISA STEVENS Giant Panda Curator National Zoo
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Lisa Stevens became a familiar face (and voice) in 2005 when panda cub Tai Shan was born at the National Zoo in Washington, DC. As manager of the giant panda program for the past 20 years, she often spoke to the public and to media about how the little ball of furry cuteness was faring. Before joining the zoo’s staff, she held positions as a field research assistant, in pet and aquarium retail, veterinary clinic operations, insect zoo husbandry and interpretation, and riding stable management (she’s an avid rider and horse owner). She has a bachelor’s degree in zoology and pre-veterinary medicine from Michigan State University and attended the AZA School for Professional Management Development for Zoo and Aquarium Personnel.
2011 Gilliam Fellows The Howard Hughes Medical Instituteâ€™s Gilliam Fellows program, which is now in its seventh year, seeks to enhance the diversity of college and university faculty members by supporting the education of top student scientists who will themselves either become professors or are committed to creating a more diverse academic community. The program is meant to further the graduate science education of talented students who have worked in the labs of top HHMI scientists and fund these exceptional students from groups traditionally underrepresented in the sciences or from disadvantaged backgrounds. Each Gilliam Fellow receives $46,500 in support annually for up to five years to help move them toward a career in science research and teaching. The Young Scientist is proud to profile several of these outstanding scholars.
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GILLIAM FELLOW PROFILE
Photo: Jim Bounds for HHMI
the state’s research institutions. So when he arrived at Duke University in 2007, he jumped at the chance to take advantage of all the resources available to him. “I started applying to labs a month after I got here,” he says. “I just had to convince the scientists there that even though I lacked experience, I had potential.” His excellent academic record and enthusiasm were persuasive; almost immediately, he began work for geneticist and HHMI professor Dr. Huntington Willard at Duke’s Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy, where he did research for the rest of his college career. That first year, Altemose absorbed everything he could—learning basic lab skills, helping with graduate student projects, and reading stacks of literature. He developed close connections with Willard and the graduate students who worked for him. “I completely clicked with them,” he says. “I felt that these were good mentors who could teach me what research was all about.” During those early months, he read work by Harvard Medical School’s Dr. David Reich, a population and medical genetics researcher whose work linked a specific region of the genome to high risk for multiple sclerosis (MS). But that region coincided with a gap in the known genome sequence whose mysteries had not been revealed by the sequencing of the human genome in 2003. “[Mapping the genome is] kind of like putting together a jigsaw puzzle,” Altemose
Duke University Durham, NC
ick Altemose excelled at nearly everything he tried in school. He earned 17 Advanced Placement credits in high school and was a top performer on his school’s Science Olympiad team. But it wasn’t until he began studying biology that he found a subject that truly fascinated him. “When we see the utter complexity of molecular biology and everything that’s responsible for human life, it adds so much beauty,” he says. “You begin to appreciate the complexity of our very existence.” Despite his interest and talent, there wasn’t an obvious outlet for Altemose’s skills as a high school student. His parents told him they’d be happy if he brought home Bs on his report cards, but he pushed himself to earn straight As, and even asked teachers to pile on more homework. Altemose was headed down a high-powered
When we see the utter complexity of molecular biology and everything that’s responsible for human life, it adds so much beauty. path that his parents hadn’t been down: his mother, a homemaker from Bolivia, didn’t go to college. His father, a Pennsylvania native who is a manager at a company that makes medical instruments, began his higher education with vocational school, going to school part time and eventually earning a bachelor’s degree. Living in the small southern California city of Temecula, Altemose didn’t have easy access to any of
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says. “You start with the edges and the colorful pieces, and at the end, you’re left with the sky pieces, which are difficult to put together because they all look so similar.” Willard’s lab took on the vexing challenge of trying to understand the gaps in the genome. Altemose and others in the lab went looking for islands of information within the messy repetitive sequences that characterized most of the gap. At first,
Altemose was just trying to understand the region a bit better. But when he began taking a computational biology class, his skill set improved dramatically, and his work on the project became more meaningful and sophisticated. He was able to analyze enormous data sets to help come up with models of what the sequences contained and how they might be organized. In the three years since the project started, the research team has uncovered a group of DNA sequences that dominate the gaps of the genome, and they have discovered new markers that will allow them to narrow down the region linked to MS. And though Altemose is disappointed to leave the research to pursue other projects, he can’t wait to see how the work proceeds. “I’m hoping that future groups are going to be able to take [the research] and run with it—to explore what these regions are doing,” he says. Even as he spent long hours in the lab, Altemose wanted to have an impact outside of it. Remembering how much he had wanted to do research as a high school student, he helped found a science mentorship program, Scientifica, during his sophomore year. The program matches Duke undergraduates working in research labs with motivated high school students and prepares the students to work in Duke labs during the summers of their junior and senior years. Altemose, who learned so much from his mentors in the Willard lab, discovered that he found switching roles even more rewarding. “It taught me to rethink the way I talk about my own project and how to explain it to people without a background in this area,” he says. “It also taught me about teaching.” He spent more than two years working with one student, Theresa Meyer, guiding her research projects and helping her with college applications and questions. “Now, she’s heading off to Princeton,” he says. Altemose, 21, will defer his Gilliam fellowship for two years to pursue genomics research at the University of Oxford on a Marshall Scholarship. When he returns, he expects to continue to work in genomics and focus on questions in basic science research, where studying even the tiniest strands of DNA can lead to enormous discoveries. “I want to be able to ask big questions, because that’s where I think I can have an impact,” he says.
GILLIAM FELLOW PROFILE
ith a father in the military, Sandra Jones and her family were almost always on the move: Korea, South Carolina, Texas, Georgia. But no matter where she lived, two things remained constant: her exceptional grades and her exacting father. “My father would always want to know if my schoolwork was difficult enough for me,” says Jones, 21. “On the back of my report cards, he’d write to my teacher: ‘Please challenge her in class.’” Her father was demanding because he wanted his daughter to have the kinds of opportunities he and his wife never had. Sandra’s mother, who is Korean, completed just a bit of high school. Her father, who grew up in South Carolina, joined the military very young, and only later received a master’s degree from an online university. A traditional college experience may not have been part of their lives, but they wanted to make sure that it was a part of their daughter’s life. Jones’s stellar grades ensured she’d get into college, but it wasn’t until her senior year in high school that she knew where she wanted to put her academic energies. An AP biology class made it clear. “It was fascinating to me to see what happens in our bodies on a molecular level,” she says. “All of my classmates thought it was a really difficult subject, but I thought it was amazing. I wanted to know more.” On her cousin’s advice, in 2007 Jones enrolled in Spelman College, a historically black women’s college in Atlanta. “It felt like a sisterhood,” she says. “I felt such a connection there, because it was a smaller school. Classes were small, everyone knew each other, and you could have real interactions with teachers.” It wasn’t long before she was excelling in her major, biochemistry. She also received scholarships to work on a project in 2009 and 2010 with Dr. Leyte Winfield, an organic chemist at Spelman. Her project involved the synthesis and testing of derivatives of celecoxib, an anti-inflammatory drug, as possible chemotherapeutic agents for treating cancer. By now, she no longer needed to be pushed by her father; she was fascinated by her work and pushed herself to delve deeply into her classes and research. In 2010, Jones received an HHMI Exceptional Research Opportunities Program (EXROP) award to do summer research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) lab of HHMI investigator Dr. Susan
Lindquist. She enjoyed the project, in which she studied the balance of proteins under different conditions in Saccharomyces cerevisiae—baker’s yeast. She was even more inspired by opportunities she had outside the lab. Twice a week, she attended seminars about the work of MIT researchers, including speakers from the department of brain and cognitive sciences. Jones was fascinated by a talk given by Dr. Emery Brown, a professor of computational neuroscience and health sciences and technology. He spoke about his research on the effects of anesthesia. His talk, and others on neuroscience, inspired her to read more. “I got really interested in neuronal synapses, and signal transduction pathways in neurons,” she explains. “How does
Photo: John Amis for HHMI
Spelman College Atlanta, GA
It was fascinating to me to see what happens in our bodies on a molecular level.
the brain connect these synapses? How do circuits form in the brain? I want to learn how these systems are altered in diseases.” She will graduate from Spelman in 2011 and plans to pursue this line of research in graduate school. While working on such projects in graduate school will be heady stuff, quite literally, Jones has never been content to devote all of her energies to research. She makes time to help others boost their own performances in science. At Spelman, she is a peer facilitator for chemistry and physics courses. She has also mentored underprivileged youth living in Atlanta through Everlasting Vitality, a community service program. She loved the students in the program, but admits being disappointed that the joy of discovery and exploration that she has experienced wasn’t the norm for the students she mentored. Instead of working on experiments or hands-on learning, most students focused solely on studying for the state’s standardized science exam. And those who were eager to learn more were thwarted because they were not allowed to take science books home. Jones
has resolved to continue mentoring, to help others see that science is more than dry textbooks and multiple-choice exams. As her career progresses, she hopes that her work will be both inspirational—and aspirational—to young black students who might feel that a science career isn’t for them. As she pursues her PhD, she will encourage students to reach higher—just as her father challenged her. “Too many African American students think that science is out of their reach,” she says. “I want to show them that it is possible.”
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GILLIAM FELLOW PROFILE
Photo: Charles Sykes for HHMI
though, Okegbe was still set on becoming a physician. Over the next two summers, however, Okegbe delved into more intense lab work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as part of the Howard Hughes Medical Research Scholars program. In the laboratory of HHMI investigator Dr. Dianne Newman, he saw big science in action, and he liked it. He joined a study of how Pseudomonas bacteria work together in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients to form thick, slimy layers called biofilms. And he learned from failure. During a set of experiments with PCR gels, he kept seeing an unexpected band. After taking apart the experiment piece by piece, he discovered he had been using contaminated water. Discovering the source of the problem was “frustrating and exhilarating,” he says. Okegbe learned to think about the bigger picture—how to ask research questions and design experiments to answer them. “I had never seen so many different projects under one roof,” he says. “I wanted to find out what everyone in the lab was doing because it all looked so cool. It broadened my vision of science.” Okegbe’s mentors at MIT immediately recognized his enthusiasm and talent, which manifested itself in a spontaneous doo-wop ditty he broke into after an all-night session of staring at Pseudomonas bacteria in a microscope. “I wish I had a recording of it, because I’ve been asked about it so many times,” he says.
Columbia University New York, NY
hinweike Okegbe’s parents considered two possible careers for their talented oldest child: doctor or engineer. Living in Abuja, Nigeria, where his mother worked as a teacher and his father as a civil servant, he understood the importance of pursing a stable, well paying occupation. Since Okegbe had naturally gravitated to science and biology at the private, Jesuit high school he attended in Nigeria, he was sure of the career path he would pursue. He would travel to the United States, with its better university system, and become a physician. Howard University offered him the prestigious Founder’s Scholarship, and Okegbe planned to enter a fast-track program that would yield both bachelor’s and medical degrees in six years. But a quirk of the scholarship program had a surprising impact, sending Okegbe on a path toward the laboratory. The scholarship would not cover the cost of the summer courses required for the fast-track program, and he could not afford to pay for the credits. Instead, in 2007 Okegbe signed up for a summer stint in the laboratory of cancer researcher and HHMI professor Dr. Winston Anderson, who had just launched an HHMI-funded initiative to encourage undergraduates to become research scientists. Okegbe got his first taste of research, watching cells through electron microscopes and learning basic laboratory techniques. “My motivation all summer was to come in to the laboratory and see something new each day,” he says. Despite his enthusiasm for the summer project,
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Okegbe knew he wanted a research career. “The idea of generating knowledge appeals to me,” he says. “And I realized that that work could also be relevant to helping patients.” Okegbe then had to break the news to his parents, who still hoped he would become a physician. With so few basic research opportunities in Nigeria, Okegbe’s parents worried that he would never find a job there. “Explaining the concept of doing scientific research was very difficult. It was unfamiliar to them,” he says. “It didn’t go down real well.” During his junior year at Howard, Okegbe attended an American Society for Cell Biology conference and noticed a distinct deficiency: very few minority scientists attended. “It wasn’t nearly as diverse as I expected,” Okegbe says. So with Anderson, he helped launch a program to expose middle school students in minority-majority Washington, D.C., to lab life. He talked to the students about science and brought them into the laboratory, where they got a taste of science. He hopes to return to Nigeria one day to set up science education programs for students. “We definitely need more science role models and mentors in Nigeria,” he says. “I discovered my interest in science later in life, and I’m happy the way things turned out, but I might have had a very different experience if I had had more exposure to science earlier. I might not have had so much trouble figuring out what I wanted to do with my life.”
My motivation all summer was to come in to the laboratory and see something new each day. During Okegbe’s second summer at MIT, sponsored by HHMI’s Exceptional Research Opportunities Program (EXROP), he returned to Newman’s lab. Soon, Okegbe had an epiphany. Newman had a PhD, not an MD, and yet her work was very patient-focused. While a physician could treat a few thousand patients in his or her lifetime, Okegbe saw that a researcher with a productive career could make discoveries that might one day help millions of people. At the end of his second summer at MIT,
Okegbe, 21, is now pursuing a PhD at Columbia University, continuing to study how communities of Pseudomonas bacteria communicate and respond to various oxygen concentrations. He has joined the laboratory of one of his mentors at MIT, Dr. Lars Dietrich, and his first scientific paper will soon be published. “I want to generate knowledge that will be useful 100 years after my time,” Okegbe says. “I want to be part of that process.”
Making it Scientist
Big as a Forensic
f you canâ€™t miss CSI every evening and get giddy whenever you think back on dissections you did in 8th grade, you may consider becoming a forensic scientist. Financial security, a pleasant home and car, getaways, spending cash, and much more can be yours if you go back to college and get your employment training in forensic science. Law enforcement officers are heavily relied upon in many areas of the United States to help make sure the innocent are safe and the guilty convicted. Studying to become a forensic scientist requires learning a variety of evidencehandling and scientific methods. People who wish to work in law enforcement, can find their true calling in forensics.
Forensic Science Education Both online and traditional schools make becoming a forensic scientist a possibility. Students learn how to analyze various kinds of evidence ranging from hair to food. Paperwork is a big part of the job; forensic scientists must document their findings. The degree you get often dictates what jobs opportunities come your way. If you are interested in gathering evidence and investigating crime scenes, youâ€™ll need a degree with a criminal justice emphasis. If the laboratory side of the field appeals to you more, then you may choose to focus on science. While forensic science certification is voluntary, it allows a forensic scientist to demonstrate professional competence in his or her specialty. Certification is available to forensic scientists through non-governmental organizations, such as professional societies or certifying agencies including the International Association for Identification and the American College of Forensic Examiners. The American Board of Criminalistics is just one example of a certifying agency for a specific specialization. All forensic scientists should expect to take continuing education courses in order to maintain certification and to stay apprised of new technology in the field.
What Forensic Scientists Do Forensic scientists commonly work in labs, at crime scenes, in offices, and in morgues. Most work in crime labs run by city, county or state governments. However, the following federal agencies also employ forensic scientists: the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Secret Service; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; the U.S. Postal Service; Health and Human Services; and the Criminal Intelligence Agency. Additionally, forensic scientists may find employment in private forensic labs, medical examiners offices, hospitals, toxicology labs, police departments, medical examiner or coroner offices, colleges and universities, or as independent consultants. Employment is contingent upon an individualâ€™s completion of a background test and passage of a random drug test. Your duties may vary according to the needs of each case, but you might have the opportunity to photograph parts of the crime scene, gather items found in the area, or write down the things you observe. Those working in a lab will describe, examine, inventory, and store different pieces of evidence found on the scene. Forensic science is a team effort, requiring the cooperation of all persons involved to provide the data needed in a courtroom. The Young Scientist | 17
Income in the forensic sciences varies greatly depending upon your degree, your actual job, where you work, and how many hours you work. You may never “get rich” but you will have a good income. People who like the idea of a thrilling career that will provide them with a mystery to solve at every turn should turn to forensic science. This is rapidly becoming one of the top jobs in criminal justice as technology advances and trained professionals are needed to assist police officers in building their cases. For your chance to play Sherlock Holmes in real life, you should become a forensic researcher.
The Young Scientist Role Model
ELLEN OCHOA, PhD First Latino Astronaut Deputy Director Johnson Space Center
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Ellen Ochoa’s career offers an outstanding example of how invention can lead to adventure: she established herself as an innovative engineer and went on to become the world’s first Latino female astronaut. Ochoa was born in 1958 in Los Angeles, but grew up in La Mesa, California. Throughout her youth, she devoted herself to music as well as math and science. When she graduated from San Diego State University in 1980 with a B.S. in Physics, Ochoa was considering a career either as a classical flutist or in business. But instead, mindful of her mother’s insistence on the importance of education, Ochoa chose to enter graduate school at Stanford University. At Stanford, Ochoa specialized in designing optical systems that analyze and draw conclusions about the objects they “see.” After graduating, she continued this work at Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In time, Ochoa as co-inventor won patents for three optical devices: a system that inspects objects; a system that identifies, and can “recognize” objects; and a system that minimizes distortion in the images taken of an object. Later, working at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, Ochoa branched off into developing computer systems designed for aeronautical expeditions. Ochoa’s expertise in optics and computer hardware had caught NASA’s attention. The systems developed by Ochoa had the potential to improve not only the gathering of data, but also the assessing of the integrity and safety of equipment. In 1990, NASA accepted her into its astronaut training program, and in July 1991, Ochoa became an official U.S. astronaut. Less than two years later, Ochoa flew as a Mission Specialist on a Discovery Space Shuttle Mission (STS-56, April 1993). The next year, she was Payload Commander on a follow-up Shuttle Mission (STS-66, November 1994). On the Shuttle expeditions, Ochoa conducted studies of the Sun’s effect on the Earth’s atmosphere and climate, deploying satellites like ATLAS-2 and -3. Ochoa has participated in an international study of damage to the Earth’s ozone layer, and for two years was in charge of U.S. Astronaut Office Support for the International Space Station project. She also continues to do research, and gives presentations to audiences ranging from schoolchildren to astrophysicists. Ellen Ochoa has won numerous awards for her success as an engineer, an astronaut, and a role model—not just for Latino or female aspiring scientists, but for anyone who believes that excellence will eventually find its recognition and reward.
GILLIAM FELLOW PROFILE
for science and medicine. Although his father encouraged him to study electrical engineering, Kyubwa decided on bioengineering as the best of both worlds and enrolled at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). As a freshman, he worked with UCSD biochemist Russell Doolittle to study the steps in the formation of fibrin, a protein that helps blood clot. As a sophomore, he joined the lab of Dr. Robert Sah, an HHMI professor and bioengineer, through the HHMI Exceptional Research Opportunities Program (EXROP). There, Kyubwa undertook a project looking at how cartilage integrates with bone and developed a method to measure the strength of the cartilage-bone interface. Kyubwa’s experiences as a refugee and an immigrant shaped his activities outside the classroom and lab. He served as president of the UCSD chapter of the National Society for Black Engineers (NSBE), spearheading an effort to create an outreach program for underrepresented middle and high school students in San Diego. The group coordinated science and engineering experiments at a middle school in San Diego. He not only mentored kids living at a homeless shelter but also recruited fellow students to help teach weekly classes on how to apply for college, financial aid, and jobs. “A lot of students are really just like me. They are starting with nothing,” he says. “I felt that I could do a lot of good in the homeless community because any positive impact will show.” On the cusp of entering the MD/PhD program at UCSD, Kyubwa returned to Congo in the summer of 2010 for a month-long visit that could have ended his academic career. After a gas spill in a neighboring village killed more than 300 people and sent many burn victims to nearby Photo: Denis Poroy for HHMI
s violence from a brutal conflict in Rwanda spilled into Zaire in 1996 and rebel soldiers made their way toward their village, nine-year-old Espoir Kyubwa, his mother, and brother fled to a refugee camp in Burundi. Within a few months they joined Kyubwa’s father, an engineering student in Sacramento, California. Kyubwa’s desire to use medicine to help people in the country of his birth is framed by those early experiences in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo, or DRC), the move to America, and a harrowing return to the Congo in 2010. As a child in Zaire, Kyubwa was drawn to mystery, and nothing seemed more mysterious to him than medicine. He remembers a respected medicine woman in his village using plant extracts to alleviate pain and treat the sick. He remembers his mother distributing food for UNICEF and counseling women and families traumatized by the war. Kyubwa knew he wanted to be a physician, a healer. “Coming from Africa to the U.S. was a cultural shock,” says Kyubwa, now 24. A fourth grade student in Zaire, he started in kindergarten to learn English and worked his way back to class with students his same age in six months with the help of additional classes and tutoring. That language barrier may have temporarily slowed him down, but it also stimulated Kyubwa’s interest in science, thanks to the fact that math had been heavily stressed in Zaire. “[It] was the common language that I shared with most of my [fellow] students. Naturally, I gravitated toward subjects that utilized mathematics,” says Kyubwa, who also credits a fifth-grade teacher with a PhD who had emigrated from Russia. “This teacher really shared his background, and it gave me hope that even though English was still a difficult subject for me, I could catch up.”
I felt that I could do a lot of good in the homeless community because any positive impact will show. As Kyubwa studied physics and chemistry and began thinking about college, he looked for ways to combine his passions
University of California San Diego, CA from Doctors Without Borders. But then a more personal disaster struck. Soldiers ambushed the truck carrying Kyubwa and other passengers traveling back to his village from a nearby city. The driver and six passengers were injured and Kyubwa was forced to leave all of his belongings, including his passport. To this day, Kyubwa believes that he would have been held for ransom had the soldiers realized that he was an American. Thanks to help from the chief of a nearby village, the U.S. embassy in Burundi, and his friends and family, he was able to fly back to California a week later. “It was definitely frightening,” he says, “but I realized that it was something that I missed—something that was happening when I left Congo. I really just got a small taste of this war that I was fortunate enough not to experience.” But the violent incident has not deterred Kyubwa from wanting to help the country of his birth. Before the ambush, he had met with a local health minister and visited hospitals in the area to assess their medical needs. He hopes to apply his research interest in tissue engineering to understanding medical trauma, injury, and rehabilitation. “In fact, I’m more interested now just because I’ve seen the reality,” he says. “I have a lot of aspirations to develop something, maybe a teaching hospital or something along those lines. I’m really interested in helping and developing a program that might be successful.”
Uvira General Hospital, Kyubwa served for a week as a volunteer translator for the Congolese doctors working with physicians
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GILLIAM FELLOW PROFILE
Photo: Nick Wass for HHMI
University of Florida Gainesville, FL
night with scientists to count eggs laid by nesting females. She realized then, “I like having that hands-on experience.” With a full scholarship to the University of Florida, Tavera shifted her research interest from the sea turtle to the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans when she joined a lab that uses the worm as its model organism to study chemical signaling. “I was very gung ho about getting into a basic science lab,” Tavera says. “It was a little hard for me
that don’t get enough research attention. She went on to win a Fulbright grant from the U.S. State Department to study dengue fever in Mexico, a project that fulfilled two important goals for this serious young woman. Dengue is a serious viral disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes and infects as many as 100 million people a year. And by choosing Mexico, she also had an opportunity to nurture the bonds with her father’s family.
Science is where I belong.
This is what I want to do.
loria Tavera learned to value independence early in life. Her father, an immigrant from Mexico, served in the U.S. Army during the Persian Gulf War and returned home suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Her parents’ marriage could not endure the strain, and that left Tavera’s mother to support two children on a teacher’s salary. “It’s made me very independent,” Tavera says. “It affected my learning style. I’m not waiting for somebody. If you don’t know how to do something, just go read about it. Don’t wait for somebody to tell you about it.” At 23 and preparing for a PhD in molecular biology, Tavera has channeled her independence and curiosity into a love of science—and a determination to do something about the diseases that affect people in developing countries. Tavera traces her love of biology to a ninth-grade teacher in Orlando, Florida, named Mark Schiffer. “He took a very inspiring approach to biology. He didn’t just teach it, it was part of his life,” she says, describing how he decorated a Christmas tree with pipe cleaner ornaments shaped like viruses and pushed her toward a summer research program at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Although many of her fellow interns worked on space-related projects, Tavera spent the summer of 2004 in the ecology department studying the green sea turtles that nest at Cape Canaveral. Tavera used tracking software to follow the turtles’ migration routes, went out on boats to find tagged turtles, and combed the beaches at
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just because I was so new to a lot of basic lab science.” As an 18-year-old she was working side-by-side with older undergraduates, grad students, and postdoctoral researchers who used lots of unfamiliar jargon—”Everyone was doing PCRs, What is this ‘PCR’?”—but she quickly got up to speed and worked in the lab for two years. Tavera’s familiarity with C. elegans led to a summer in the HHMI Exceptional Research Opportunity Program (EXROP) with Dr. Paul Sternberg, an HHMI investigator at the California Institute of Technology. She worked with a postdoc on a project related to sleep-like behavior in the worm. Tavera presented a poster about the work and learned something important about herself. “Science is where I belong. This is what I want to do,” she says. Along the way, Tavera developed an interest in infectious diseases. With a friend, she started the University of Florida chapter of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, a student organization that lobbies universities to use their research to improve the lives of people in the developing world. “C. elegans gave me a really good scientific background that got me interested. This organization gave me more of a gut drive— sort of a call to arms,” she says. It also became a call to action. Tavera co-wrote an editorial for the journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases about how universities could help with diseases such as leprosy, dengue fever, and Chagas disease— major problems in the developing world
Although Tavera had learned Spanish as a child, language proved to be a major challenge in the lab at the National Institute of Public Health in Cuernavaca. “Just talking about basic lab materials [was difficult because] some of the things are the same as they are in English, but a lot of it isn’t.” Tavera worked with mice infected with dengue virus and examined their brains for signs of the virus, but she also had hands-on experience working with individuals who came to the lab wanting to know whether household insects carried the parasite for Chagas disease. “You basically squeeze out fecal matter from the bug and look at it under a microscope to see if you can detect the parasites,” she says. The experience in Cuernavaca sealed Tavera’s interest in infectious disease. In 2010, she spent a postbaccalaureate year at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland, studying genetic changes in the malaria genome that can cause drug resistance. She plans to start a PhD in molecular biology this fall, with a research focus that may encompass malaria or a neglected tropical disease such as dengue, leishmaniasis, or Chagas disease.
Another Day, Another Neuron: Becoming a Neuroscientist by Eric Chudler, PhD Research Associate Professor, University of Washington
he lights are low. Electronic equipment hums. A loud speaker pops and crackles. Green lights flash across a monitor as a recording tape rolls. An electrode is lowered. Ah...another day studying the brain. Not all scientists who study the brain and the rest of the nervous system (neuroscientists) work in these conditions. Some work in the jungles of the Amazon looking for new plants that may hold the cure for neurological disorders; others work in the clinics of medical centers helping people stricken with neurological disease. Still others work in laboratories examining microscopic sections of the brain or the studying the behavior of man and other animals. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill What does it take to study that 1.4 kilogram (3 pound) mass of tissue in our heads we call the brain? What does a neuroscientist actually do? Can the part of our anatomy that makes us who we are really be studied?
How to Become a Neuroscientist When you ask a child, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” many will answer, “I want to be a teacher” or “I want to be a fireman” or “I want to be a pilot.” I doubt any will say “I want to be a neuroscientist.” Yet many people do pursue careers studying the nervous system. In fact, the Society for Neuroscience, an international organization of scientists who study the nervous system, has over 38,000 members. To start on the road to becoming a neuroscientist—any scientist for that matter—first and most importantly, you must get an education. Study hard in school and go to college. Once in college, you do not need to take neuroscience classes immediately. Shop around. Take classes in a variety of departments and follow your interests. Neuroscientists come from many different disciplines including psychology, zoology, physics, anthropology, biology, chemistry, physiology, and philosophy. A diverse educational background will provide the most important skill of all: how to ask questions. As an undergraduate, you may have a chance to test the waters of research by working in a neuroscience lab. Ask around. Neuroscientists are always looking for cheap labor. You could even make a little money. As a volunteer research subject, you could also make a little money. Just strap on the electrodes and don’t worry—all experiments, even those on students, MUST be approved by a university human subjects committee to determine that they are safe. After finishing at a university with your bachelor of science or bachelor of arts degree, you are now ready for the next step—graduate school or medical school or dental school. Some people go to graduate school for their PhD and a health profession school such as medical, dental or nursing school. You have a wide range of departments from which to select your area of study. Many universities have separate neuroscience departments, but psychology, physiology, pharmacology,
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and biology departments also offer coursework and laboratories that study the nervous system. Do you want to study how drugs affect the brain? Why do we sleep? What causes and what are the treatments for Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, schizophrenia? What about pain, memory, stress, emotion, consciousness? The list is endless. It is important that you pick a graduate program with people who are doing what you want to do. Nevertheless, it is common for students who are pursuing one area of neuroscience to become interested in another area and switch labs. As long as you use some tact and common courtesies with your advisor, changing labs should not be a problem. Many graduate schools will assist you financially with stipends in the form of research and teaching assistantships. Research assistants typically perform experiments in a laboratory under the guidance of a senior researchers. Teaching assistants help instructors with classroom duties such as grading papers, leading discussion sections and even lecturing students. These are not high paying positions, but they are wonderful training ground for the future. So you have your PhD, now what? Many people further their training with a postdoctoral fellowship. A post-doc goes to a laboratory where he or she can learn new techniques or explore a new area of neuroscience. Your time as a post-doc is free from the worries of grant writing and teaching—you are in the lab to do research. After your post-doctoral fellowship, it is time to get a “real job.” Here are just some places that offer employment for neuroscientists:
Government (for example, in laboratories at the National Institutes of Health) These positions usually do not involve traditional teaching responsibilities.
University (as a researcher or teacher) At the university it is sometimes difficult to balance research and teaching duties. However, the university environment, surrounded by students interested in learning, is exciting.
Neuroanatomist - studies the structure (anatomy) of the nervous system Neurobiologist - studies the biology of the nervous system Neurochemist - studies the chemistry (for example, neurotransmitters) of the nervous system Neurological Surgeon - a physician who performs surgery on the nervous system Neurologist - a physician who diagnoses and treats disorders of the nervous system Neuropathologist - studies diseases of the nervous system Neuropharmacologist - studies the action of drugs on the nervous system and/or behavior Neuropsychologist - studies brain-behavior relationships (especially cognitive functions) in humans Neurophysiologist - studies the physiology of the nervous system Physiological Psychologist - (psychobiologist or biological psychologist) studies the neural basis of behavior
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Industry (for example in biotechnology, pharmaceutical, or medical instruments companies) Often paying higher salaries than government or university jobs, private industry offers the chance to research and develop new products for the marketplace without the pressure of teaching responsibilities.
Hospital or Medical Center (as a clinician and/or researcher) Working in a medical center is an ideal place to study neurological disorders in patients.
Neuroscience careers “Neuroscientist” is actually a general word that describes someone who studies the nervous system. Many neuroscientists wear several hats. For example, a neurosurgeon may also have a PhD in physiology. He or she may work in the operating room, but also have time to perform experiments. There are many career paths that neuroscientists can take:
A Day in the Life of a Neuroscientist You have finished your training, you have a nice job. What does a neuroscientist really do? Like most professions, the job of a neuroscientist requires a multitude of talents. In addition to performing experiments in their area of expertise, neuroscientists must be: »» writers (to publish manuscripts and write grant applications) »» accountants (to balance laboratory expenses) »» fund raisers (to support the laboratory financially) »» electricians, carpenters and plumbers (to repair minor problems with equipment or build new instruments) »» teachers (to lecture large audiences and classes or talk one-on-one with students) »» travel agents (to get to meetings around the country and world) »» artists (to create graphics and illustrations of results from experiments) »» photographers (to document your work and prepare manuscripts) »» counselors (to advise students) »» editors (to critique their own work and that of others)
Discovery Like it or not, science is a business.You’ll have much more satisfaction in your career if you learn how to do a bit of hustling. Think of yourself as an entrepreneur—on a mission!
Neuroscientists in charge of their own labs are also head custodians and chief bottle washers.
Challenges for the Future Because of many technological advances, neuroscience has made great strides in recent years. There is the patch clamp to listen to ion channels; the electron microscope to see inside neurons; single unit techniques to record electrical activity from inside and outside of individual neurons; positron emission tomography to study brain function; magnetic resonance imaging to see inside the living brain. Yet even with all these inventions, there is still so much to learn about the brain and the rest of the nervous system. The next century holds many exciting challenges for current and future neuroscientists. Here are only a few of the possible questions that face neuroscientists in laboratories and clinics around the world: »» What are the methods for early detection of neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease and for mental disorders such as schizophrenia and depression? What are the causes of these illnesses? What are the cures? »» How can we help nerves regenerate? Can we cure spinal cord injuries? Can we transplant or replace parts of the brain? »» What causes chronic pain? What is the best way to treat pain? How can we tap into our endogenous pain inhibitory system? »» What are the mechanisms of addiction? Are there better ways to treat addictions? »» How are memories formed, stored and lost?
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»» What are better ways to image the living brain? »» What is the neurological basis of emotions such as anger, happiness and sadness? »» What are the differences in the brains of men and women and what do these differences mean? »» How does experience and learning affect the brain and how can we use this information to improve our daily lives? »» What are the neurological mechanisms of alternative medicine treatments such as acupuncture, herbal therapy and hypnosis and how can these methods be used to treat nervous system disorders? »» Why do we sleep and how can we shift our internal body clocks? »» What is consciousness? Neuroscientists are studying these and many other questions about the brain right now. With increased effort, the answers to these questions are in the near future. Perhaps you would like to help? For more information: A Career in Neuroscience: A Game of “Survivor?” (http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/survive.html) Becoming a scientist - Interviews with biomedical researchers (Howard Hughes Medical Institute): www.hhmi.org/becoming Eric Chudler, PhD is a neuroscientist (Research Associate Professor) and Director of Education and Outreach at University of Washington Engineered Biomaterials in Seattle, Washington. He is a basic researcher performing experiments related to how the nervous system works and how Parkinson’s disease affects the brain. For more information, see: http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/csem.html
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GILLIAM FELLOW PROFILE D
uring her first year at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), Nadia Herrera worked a part-time job at a shoe store to help pay her tuition. She did such a good job that the manager offered to promote her. But Herrera had other plans. She also volunteered in a biochemistry lab on campus, and as soon as she received a fellowship to cover tuition costs, she quit the sales job to devote her extra time to research—her true calling. Herrera recalls doing her own small experiments as an elementary school student in El Paso—pouring water out of a glass over and over, and marveling at the water’s properties. “It just keeps falling out of the glass. It’s so malleable,” she remembers thinking. That curiosity about the natural world continued through high school, where she enrolled in the International Baccalaureate (IB) honors program. As a senior project for her advanced chemistry class, she assessed the effects of contamination from factories along the Rio Grande. She and her fellow students collected water samples and then tried to grow colonies of microorganisms on agar plates. “We were just trying to see if there was anything alive in the water, even bacteria,” she says. They found more bacterial colonies than they expected, leading them to conclude that the factories were releasing more organic waste into the water than regulations allowed. Participating in the IB program also opened her eyes to the possibility of attending college—a first for her family—because that is what the teachers expected. So Herrera, the daughter of a construction worker and a store manager, enrolled at UTEP in the fall of 2008, intending to become a doctor. “As I started learning more in my chemistry and biology core classes, I realized that I didn’t want to study medicine. I wanted to study what was behind the medicine,” she says. Herrera, now 20, will graduate this spring from UTEP—one year early—with a dual major in microbiology and biochemistry. In fact, her path toward research began almost immediately after she arrived on campus, and she credits her academic advisor, Marc Cox, with pointing her in the right direction. She discovered that the introductory chemistry course covered material she had already studied in high school, so she
asked Cox how she could learn more. He suggested that she talk to professors and get involved with doing research. She joined the lab of UTEP biochemist Dr. Ricardo Bernal and studied an enzyme used by a bacteriophage, a virus that attacks the human pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Herrera’s goal was to crystallize the enzyme to determine its structure. She had to test more than 500 different conditions for crystallizing the protein before she found one that worked. She’s been optimizing it for almost a year and hopes to obtain a crystal structure soon. Juggling a part-time job, lab work, and her classes that first year was difficult, Herrera says, because she had no experience or family guidance on paying for college or applying for financial aid. But a professor told her about the Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement fellowship, which provides a stipend for undergraduates in the biological sciences for doing research during the academic year.
Photo: Victor Calzada for HHMI
University of Texas El Paso, TX It’s a little like her other passion, the violin. Herrera began playing the instrument in fifth grade and played for two years in the UTEP orchestra. She still takes private lessons. “I fell in love with it like I fell in love
Perseverance is key to research because most of the time in the lab, things are not going to work. Since then, a Minority Access to Research Careers fellowship has paid for her studies. In 2010, her junior year, Herrera was chosen for the HHMI Exceptional Research Opportunities Program (EXROP). She spent the summer in the lab of HHMI investigator Douglas Rees at the California Institute of Technology. Her project at Caltech also involved purifying a protein and characterizing its structure and function. However, “it was a more challenging experience than I had had before,” she says. The protein she worked with is a channel found in the membrane of a bacterium that causes tuberculosis. Because it’s a membrane protein, it prefers a lipid, or fat-filled, environment, but to crystallize the protein, it needs to be dissolved in water. By the end of the summer, she succeeded in creating protein crystals that will be characterized with x-ray crystallography by others in Rees’s lab who have taken over the project.
with research,” she says. Working in a lab as an undergraduate has prepared her well for her intended career as a scientist, she says. “It’s taught me that perseverance is key to research because most of the time in the lab, things are not going to work. If you want to make it work, you have to try new things, open your mind to more ideas. It’s just motivating me more to go to graduate school because now I know what research is. Even though it may be really hard, I know that I have the perseverance to continue.”
The Young Scientist | 25
Seven Steps to Becoming a Great Scientist by Morgan C. Giddings
1. TINKER While it is not frequently acknowledged either in the popular press or in scientific literature, a significant fraction of scientific discovery is the result of serendipity, or to put it more bluntly, luck. From the discovery of penicillin by Fleming to the discovery of new ionization techniques such as MALDI that power modern mass-spectrometry based proteomic research, luck has frequently played a big role. Such discoveries are generally attributed to hard work and genius, rather than to luck. Doing so gives the “genius” too much credit and luck too little. Often the big discoveries come from someone noticing an inconsistency or oddity in their surroundings or experiments, then doggedly working to figure out what is causing it. So perhaps being a great scientist is less about “genius” than it is about willingness to pursue the unusual at the expense of pursuing the usual. This comes back to the argument about age: often, once one has become entrenched in a paradigm, blindness to inconsistencies grows, and so it takes someone from outside of a field to point those out and pursue them. This should be encouraging news for those of us who don’t consider ourselves geniuses. The best way to promote scientific success may be to maximize exposure to chance occurrence and events—especially those that have more upside than downside potential. So, don’t just ignore those little inconsistencies that arise in your work, give them some room for consideration. This is something anyone can do, though it takes time and courage (see point 2, below). In addition, to be creative and remain open to fortuitous occurrences, the mind needs a rest from time to time. One can be buried in the lab 20 hours a day, and easily become lost in the self-created world where the little oddities begin to escape notice. Fleming discovered penicillin upon return from a long vacation, and his fresh mind may have contributed to the key observation he made on the effect of mold upon bacterial cultures. So it is critical to balance hard work with other activities, particularly those that provide exposure to new and different challenges: travel, sports, hobbies, or family.
2. TAKE RISKS Risk-taking is where most of the big discoveries in science lie. Recall Dr. Marshall and H. pylori: he was willing to 26 | The Young Scientist
swallow a culture of the bacterium to prove his theory. And later, he shared the Nobel Prize for it. It may not be wise to go around drinking random bacterial cultures in the hopes of discovering something new. But it is important when something outside the current scientific fashion is discovered, to at least consider the risks and possible payoffs of pursuing it. Those who pursue such an idea may find it hard to get funding for it. Others may say it is a bad idea. People may reject papers, expressing vehement opposition to a new idea. For really groundbreaking ideas, there may even be hecklers at talks! But, as Hamming pointed out in his lecture: “The great scientists, when an opportunity opens up, get after it and they pursue it.” Pursuing new lines of inquiry can be very discouraging at times, but it is all part of the process any new idea goes through to transform from fringe to mainstream. I recall one major experience I had with this. Around 1996, I came up with an idea for doing DNA sequencing reactions in a test tube in a way that is very much like pyrosequencing today. After presenting it to a mentor and having it shot down, I gave up on it and went back to my “safe” work. While that was not a great time to pursue a new line of work outside my graduate studies, perhaps I should not have given up so quickly, considering the importance of pyrosequencers now. Risk-taking may be a particular challenge for female scientists. It seems that cultural norms discourage risk-taking in young girls more so than in boys, and this can carry forward through to adulthood and into scientific careers. The top female scientists I know of take risks in their work, but they seem to be a minority. So it seems especially important for
mentors of female students, postdocs, and young faculty, to provide encouragement in this regard. This same issue may apply to other minorities in science as well.
3. ENJOY YOUR WORK! It is quite easy in today’s science to get caught up in the “external rewards” game, meaning seeking praise, high profile publications, and honors or awards. But these are transient and illusory rewards. The prestigious prizes and high profile publications are often a lottery—in addition to some of the factors above, there is a lot of luck involved in who happens upon the “really big” discoveries. One may or may not get lucky, and may or may not get recognition for that. Sometimes recognition only comes after the prime of one’s career—John Fenn received the Nobel Prize at 85 years old. That’s a long time to wait for reward if you’re just doing science for the sake of such rewards (I doubt that was Fenn’s motivation for discovering electrospray ionization). A different and much more gratifying way to pursue a career is to simply enjoy the work! Do science for the sake of doing it. This is as likely as anything to lead to big discoveries and fame. But even if those things don’t happen, you are enjoying yourself, and life is too short not to do so.
4. LEARN TO SAY “NO!” Over the span of a career, one gets asked to do many nonscience activities: serving on committees, grant reviews, paper reviews, and so on. While it is important to contribute effort to these things to keep the system functioning, it is necessary to set a limit, so that they don’t take over the fun of doing science itself. The system will not collapse
just because one says “no” from time to time in order to preserve time to do science. Learning to say “no” is particularly important for young faculty, who find themselves barraged with such requests, and who can easily get sucked into full-time committee duties. It is wise to step back frequently and ask, “overall, is this work I am doing fun?” If the answer is no, perhaps it is time to revisit points 1 and 4 above, and consider diving into a new area.
5. LEARN TO ENJOY THE PROCESS OF WRITING AND PRESENTING Note the distinction in this guideline from “learn to write and present well.” Many students I encounter dislike writing more than anything else they do. As a result, when it comes time to write a paper, it is a struggle from start to finish, both for them and for those working with them. When one doesn’t like doing something, procrastination is the most common response. Procrastination and good writing don’t mix. I say this even though I am someone who, as an undergraduate, would work all night on a term paper to turn it in at the last moment, and often receive an “A.” But in the real world of scientific paper writing, that first draft just won’t cut it. It usually takes three or more significant rewritings and lots of input from others to get it right. Combine that with procrastination and it’s a recipe for not getting a good paper out in a timely fashion, or perhaps not at all. The key is to figure out how to enjoy the writing process, thereby encouraging oneself to avoid procrastination. There is no one formula that works for everyone. Some people need utter peace and quiet for their writing. Others prefer writing at a coffee shop, or to have music playing. The thing
The Young Scientist Role Model
STEPHON ALEXANDER, PHD Cosmologist Penn State University
Stephon Alexander was born on the southern coast of Trinidad and Tobago and moved to the Bronx in New York when he was eight. His interest in physics started four years later when his father brought home a used computer. In his quest to learn how it worked, he “discovered the words ‘Quantum Mechanics.’ Although I was mystified by the equations,” he says, “I got hooked.” Quantum mechanics is now a part of Alexander’s daily life as associate professor of physics at Haverford College. His research explores the interface between fundamental physics and cosmology, and in particular addresses questions about the early universe. He plays the saxophone, and his passion for improvisational Jazz influences his work.
The Young Scientist | 27
is to figure out what works, and to stick with it, training oneself to have positive mental associations with writing. Robert Boice, in his book Advice for New Faculty Members, suggests the key is to do a little bit of writing every day. The goal is to simply get the ideas on the page, without worrying about their form at the beginning. By doing this a little bit every day—perhaps only 30–60 minutes—it is amazing how quickly and enjoyably a big writing project can take shape through a process of gradual evolution. This often takes significant retraining. Many of us begin with the notion that writing should come in sudden bursts of dramatic creation. This message is conveyed frequently in movies that portray an author writing a novel in a sudden last minute rush, and it is reinforced in high school and college by many of us learning to get away with writing papers at the last minute (and still doing well). Reprogramming that unrealistic expectation out of one’s head is therefore a key to learning to enjoy writing. The same principle applies to giving a good presentation: enjoy its making and giving. Forget everything you ever learned about giving dry, stuffy presentations. While it is critical to have good science in your talk, it is equally critical to bring that science to life for the audience. That is nigh impossible if you are scared to death of being in front of the audience, or if you are completely bored by your subject matter. If you are bored, the audience will surely be bored, and you might as well not have wasted their time—or your own. The last thing a reader or talk attendee wants to see is a bunch of data just to prove that you did some work. It is much more interesting to tell a story. The story begins with why you started the work in the first place (the big reasons, not just “because my advisor told me to”), it usually has mystery and intrigue (e.g., dead ends, which are worth reporting only if they helped lead you to the final answer), and some kind of dramatic conclusion (which challenges the audience to think about things in a new way). This may seem like overstatement, but having sat through many extraordinarily dry, boring scientific talks (and having read many dry papers), I find the ones that stand out are those
Discovery You may have a head for numbers or formulas, but remember: writing is a crucial skill for all scientists. Learn how to express yourself clearly on paper to set yourself up for long-term success.
28 | The Young Scientist
that have such elements. If there is a lack of enthusiasm for the work you are doing, that may be a sign that it’s the wrong work for you. It can be a fun challenge to figure out who your audience is and what they will respond to. For example, when I was a postdoctoral researcher, I once gave a group meeting presentation accompanied by sound effects borrowed from Monty Python. We all had a good laugh, and I still managed to convey some science, too. But I would never do this at a scientific conference. Yet at a conference with a series of 15-minute talks, it is still possible to give a presentation that stands out—by enjoying its making and giving, and fine-tuning it for that audience. Elements such as presenting clear, understandable slides, and providing adequate introduction and background to the audience are very important. But it is most important to discuss subject matter that you have enthusiasm about. Once one has learned to enjoy writing and presenting, it is very likely that writing well and presenting well will follow, since it is more difficult to do a truly poor job of something one enjoys doing.
6. DON’T WORRY ABOUT AGE; WORRY ABOUT BEING EXPOSED TO NEW IDEAS While it appears that age plays a role in scientific creativity, it has not been well examined whether that role is biologically causative. There are many social changes that usually occur as anyone ages, which may play a greater role than biology does in the age-related creativity decline. Older scientists usually become boxed into their fields of expertise, and come to be seen as “experts.” As such, they are less likely to have their ideas directly challenged by others, and less likely to be exposed to radically new ideas or different fields. I have seen many anecdotal references to Einstein’s creative powers reducing as he aged, as his best work was done in his 20s. But this ignores a major factor: during his creative years, he was a patent clerk who was seen as a “nobody,” whereas in his later years he was an eminent professor. Being a nobody has certain creative advantages—for one, there is not much to lose by promoting radical new ideas, because one has no reputation or established career at stake. Also, one is not expected to follow the “party line,” regardless of the latest scientific fashion that happens to be in vogue. Promoting new ideas can often be a minefield for one’s career, since there is usually a long period of violent resistance to new ideas. Barry Marshall had to drink a culture of H. pylori to give himself an ulcer, in order to overcome resistance to the idea that this organism caused ulcers. Now, more than 20 years later, he and co-discoverer Robin Warren have the Nobel Prize, and the role of H. pylori in ulcers is widely accepted. In today’s competitive grant world, this phenomenon is exacerbated. It is dangerous to one’s funding to go against the trend, and if there is a lab to support and mouths to
feed, the disincentives are great. This phenomenon stifles creativity, perhaps far more than biological age does. If one is therefore concerned about retaining scientific creativity, perhaps the best solution is to force exposure to new ideas, concepts, and people. Hamming also discussed the importance of this kind of exposure by “keeping your door open.” I think that more than just keeping one’s door open, a more direct way of doing this is to become involved in entirely new fields from time to time, which tends to promote creative thinking outside established dogma. So, don’t worry about your age, worry about whether you are continuing to expose yourself to new and challenging ideas. 7. SEE THE BIG PICTURE AND KEEP IT IN MIND Understanding and conveying the big picture for one’s work is perhaps the greatest challenge facing young scientists. It is difficult to make the transition from a life of undergraduate classwork—where every step is prescribed by the instructor—to the pursuit of authentic research in graduate school, where there is no a simple formula to follow to pursue a successful line of research. At the start of a research career, the subject matter is often prescribed by one’s advisor, and as a result, it is very common for students to simply rely on the advisor’s word that it is important work to be doing, without really thinking about it, in keeping with the earlier mode of operation from undergraduate days. This lack of introspection regarding the “why” translates into many problems down the road, including bad presentations (because no motivation for the work is given), bad manuscripts (because no motivation for the work is given), and, often, bad morale (because one comes to feel like a robot turning a crank). From the start, it is critical to be very familiar with the why. Why are you doing the work? Who will care about it, either now, or in the future? Is it likely to have any benefit? Note that the answers to these questions are often not easy. Many times discoveries are made long before they are ever put to practical use, and that use is often well outside the vision of the originator. So the key to this point is to think about the Why, even if there is no simple answer. Another way of stating this is that there should be some explicit and stated motivation for the work, even if it is just intellectual curiosity. That kind of introspection will help with one’s own motivation in doing the work, and just as importantly, this will translate into better presentations and papers (because of making it more fun, as discussed in point 6 above). It would be gratifying to come up with guidelines 8–10 just for numerical conformity. However, lacking an additional and meaningful guideline to give, instead I would restate one in particular: guideline 4, enjoy your work. All of the great scientists I have encountered are those who really enjoy what they are doing. The astute reader may notice that most of the above rules are about process, rather than end result. This is to counter a phenomenon endemic to our culture: results count, and so
advice is usually tailored to how to get those results in the quickest and most obvious manner. However, by attempting to short-circuit the thinking about process, in order to achieve the quickest result, often the end result is not a better one, and more importantly, leads to little long-term gratification. An example is the advice to “work hard.” While one who works hard is usually more productive than one who doesn’t, working too hard can be counterproductive. The rule could instead be stated “work hard enough,” but then the question becomes: how much work is “hard enough”? That leads to a quagmire of endless debate about how much work might make one most productive, and even how said productivity is measured—is it citations, prestigious prizes, grant money, or salary. If one focuses instead on the processes involved in doing science, then the answers to such questions are much more obvious. Enough work is exactly the amount at which one can maintain enjoyment of the process of work, without burning out (which is not enjoyable) or becoming socially isolated (which is not enjoyable). If that amount of work is not enough to maintain a scientific career, then a different career may need to be considered, where such enjoyment can be found. Because, in the end, one may have many medals or honors bestowed, but those are transient scraps of paper or metal. True satisfaction with doing something worthwhile lasts for a lifetime. Dr. Morgan Giddings is a third-generation scientist trained in Physics, Computer Science, and various biological sciences. She was a professor at UNC Chapel Hill in Microbiology & Immunology, Biomedical Engineering, and Computer Science until the end of 2010, at which time she jumped ship from her tenured job to move to the Wild Wild West, pursuing a research program at Boise State University and focusing on building a business to help other scientists achieve their best. References Erren TC, Cullen P, Erren M, Bourne PE. Ten simple rules for doing your best research, according to Hamming. PLoS Comput Biol. 2007;3:1839–1840. doi: 10.1371/journal. pcbi.0030213. [PMC free article] [PubMed] Marshall B. Helicobacter connections. Chem Med Chem. 2006;1:783–802. [PubMed] Hamming R, Kaiser JF. You and your research. Transcription of the Bell Communications Research Colloquium Seminar. 1986. Available: http://www.cs.virginia.edu/~robins/YouAndYourResearch.html. Accessed 13 January 2008. Boice R. Advice for new faculty members. Needham Heights (Massachusetts): Allyn and Bacon; 2000. 288 p. Kohn A. How to make a scientific lecture unbearable. Annals of Improbable Research. 2003. Available: http://www. improbable.com/news/2003/mar/unbearable_lecture.html. Accessed 13 January 2008. The Young Scientist | 29
Celebrating 11 years of advancing minority students in the sciences Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) T heconference is the most highly anticipated event of the year for minority students with dreams of inventing the next big cure or solve the next big mystery of the cosmos. We talked with longtime conference organizer, Irene Hulede of the American Society for Microbiology, about what to expect at this year’s conference, November 9-12 in St. Louis, Missouri.
What’s the biggest news coming out of ABRCMS right now?
Hulede: Perhaps the biggest news is that we’ve recently received a new five-year grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). This funding will allow us to continue our mission to help minority students learn, share, and network with leading scientists. We’re doing a lot of new things this year with our new funding, including:
Irene Hulede Conference Organizer
• • • • • • • • •
Adding two new scientific areas—cancer biology and immunology Promoting interdisciplinary research An online abstract database One exhibit hall for all presentations (including graduate student presentations) Judging of post-baccalaureate poster presentations Abstract CDs now replacing abstract books Lead retrieval systems for data collection Pre-conference campus tour of Washington University in St. Louis Special NIH/NIGMS Student Poster Award
You’ve been involved with ABRCMS since the beginning. How have you seen the conference change over the years? Hulede: We pride ourselves on the fact that we gather feedback from our attendees and implement enhancements based on the feedback received. ABRCMS offers a broad array of scientific and professional development sessions. The quality of the students improves each year.
NIH Director Francis Collins speaks to students at ABRCMS 2010 30 | The Young Scientist
One of the things I’m most proud of is that when we originally received the grant to manage the conference, most of the students attending were affiliated with NIGMS funded programs. But over the years, we have reached far beyond those groups and now almost 50% of our attendees are minority students at majority institutions not necessarily funded by NIGMS. We’re also attracting many more students from the STEM disciplines. We want the students to learn from each other, and having a broad range of students and disciplines has really strengthened the conference.
What have you seen as the longer-term effects of ABRCMS for the students involved?
Hulede: Every year, more and more of the students are taking the experiences and connections they create here and making good career decisions—or going to graduate school—and that is our ultimate goal. The quality of the students’ presentations is exceptional. Also, every year, I hear from the exhibitors that the students who come to ABRCMS are even better prepared, more curious, and more engaged in the field.
What’s the biggest challenge of hosting the conference?
Hulede: People always come up to me at the end of the conference and say, “I don’t know how you’re going to top this next year!” So it’s always a challenge for my team to strive to meet and exceed attendees’ expectations every year. The challenge is what inspires us to make such great effort to make the conference unique each year.
What’s the best thing about ABRCMS?
Hulede: That it’s such a well-rounded conference. It’s like a “one-stop shopping” experience for everyone involved. The exhibitors have all the students they want to reach in one place. The students get to meet exhibitors, hear amazing speakers, and get feedback on their presentations. It’s a really special environment. In fact, first-time speakers (some of whom are very tough to get because of their busy schedules) are always wowed by the experience at ABRCMS and are eager to come back again. Once someone comes, they’re hooked! I am excited to be a part of ABRCMS. The 2012 ABRCMS conference will be held in San Jose, California, November 7-10, 2012. To learn more, visit: www.abrcms.org
ABRCMS is supported by a grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and managed by the American Society for Microbiology.
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Resources for Minorities in Science American Association for the Advancement of Science, Education and Human Resources Committee http://ehrweb.aaas.org/mge
American Indian Science and Engineering Society www.aises.org
Association of Women in Science www.awis.org
Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology www.cpst.org
Just/Garcia/Hill Science Web Site www.justgarciahill.org
Minority Access, Inc. www.minorityaccess.org
National Institutes of Health Minority Education Programs www.nigms.nih.gov/minority
National Organization of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers www.nobcche.org
NIH Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) www.nigms.nih.gov/minority/marc.html
Society for the Advancement of Chicano and Native Americans in Science www.sacnas.org
Ventures Scholar Program www.venturescholar.org
32 | The Young Scientist
University of Chicago
Harvard Medical School
SUMMER RESEARCH PROGRAMS for College and Medical Students sponsored by
Harvard Catalyst Program for Faculty Development and Diversity
VISITING RESEARCH INTERNSHIP PROGRAM (VRIP) is an 8-week mentored, summer research program, open to 1st and 2nd year U.S. medical students, particularly underrepresented minority and/or disadvantaged individuals from accredited U.S. medical schools. SUMMER CLINICAL AND TRANSLATIONAL RESEARCH PROGRAM (SCTRP) is a ten-week mentored, summer research program designed to enrich studentsâ€™ understanding of and interest in pursuing clinical and/or translational research, as well as to increase underrepresented minority and disadvantaged student exposure to clinical/translational research. College sophomores, juniors and seniors are eligible to apply, particularly those attending Minority Biomedical Research Support (MBRS) and Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) NIH-funded institutions, historically black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and/or Tribal Colleges with baccalaureate degree programs, and/or alumni of the Harvard Medical School Minority Faculty Development Program. VRIP and SCTRP offers students housing as well as a salary and transportation reimbursement for travel to and from Boston. Applicants must be US citizens or US non-citizen nationals or permanent residents of the US. For more information please contact: Vera Yanovsky, Program Coordinator E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: (617) 432-1892 Web Site: www.mfdp.med.harvard.edu/catalyst
The 11th Annual
NEW ENGLAND SCIENCE SYMPOSIUM Sunday, April 1, 2012
The Joseph B. Martin Conference Center at Harvard Medical School
Sponsors: The Office for Diversity and Community Partnership at Harvard Medical School, the Biomedical Science Careers Program, the Harvard Catalyst/Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center, the National Institutes of Health, the Harvard FAS Center for Systems Biology and NIGMS Center for Modular Biology, the Harvard Medical School Department of Systems Biology and Cell Decision Process Center, Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, and Sanofi/Genzyme R&D Center. Contact: Pinar Kilicci-Kret, Program Coordinator E-mail: email@example.com Phone: (617) 432-5580 www.NewEnglandScienceSymposium.org
The New England Science Symposium, established in 2002, provides a forum for postdoctoral fellows; medical, dental and graduate students; post-baccalaureates; college and community college students (particularly for African-American, Hispanic/ Latino and American Indian/Alaska Native individuals) to share their biomedical and health-related research activities through oral or poster presentations, to engage in discussions related to career development in the sciences, to exchange ideas and to expand their professional networks.
University of Washington
Scientist A CAREER GUIDE FOR UNDERREPRESENTED SCIENCE GRADUATES