UMMC Graduate School's summer-research programs link local undergraduates with lab science
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JACKSON, Miss. – When Brandon native Joseph Creel says he did sleep research as a summer job in college, it doesn’t mean he got paid to catch ZZZZs.
Rather, it means he completed a summer biomedical research program at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson where he studied how light and darkness cycles influence sleep.
Creel was among more than 60 undergraduates from around the state who enrolled in Discovery U programs this summer, sponsored by the School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences at UMMC.
Through various programs, Discovery U exposes K-12 and undergraduate students to biomedical research. In its Summer Undergraduate Research Experience, or SURE program, Creel and 37 other students got 10 weeks of hands-on biomedical research and training on laboratory techniques and equipment.
SURE and other Discovery U students attended Friday-lunchtime discussions on science-career paths, hosted by Medical Center faculty and post-doctoral fellows. And, as participants in the SURE program, they each received a $3,500 stipend.
The program wrapped up Aug. 2 and later this month he’ll return to the University of Alabama for his junior year as a biology major.
“The SURE program not only gives undergraduate students hands-on research training, but opens up a world of career possibilities that they can pursue with a master’s or Ph.D in basic sciences. In fact, SURE is the main way we recruit for the graduate school,” said Dr. Joey Granger, UMMC distinguished professor of physiology and graduate school dean.
This year’s SURE program closed with a half-day symposium where each participant presented his or her research in front of the other students, laboratory technicians, mentors and faculty members.
Dr. Michael Ryan, associate professor of physiology, co-directs Discovery U along with Dr. Michael Garrett, associate professor of pharmacology.
“In my view, one of the major benefits is giving students these opportunities is they can see how research is important to human health and disease,” Ryan said. “A lot of times students aren’t familiar with biomedical research so by bringing them in and going out to their classrooms, we build pipelines for the next generation of scientists.”
Mary Canterbury, Discovery U program administrator, said the caliber of students keeps improving. And number of young, scientific minds each year came away interested in the graduate school’s master’s and doctoral programs.
“This year we had undergraduates from colleges all over Mississippi and from Harvard, Carnegie Mellon and Notre Dame,” she said.
For his second summer in SURE, Creel again worked in the laboratory of Dr. James Shaffery, UMMC associate professor of psychiatry and human behavior. This summer he organized and analyzed sleep-study data to look at the influence of light-to-dark cycles on REM sleep.
“It was good to come back because I could jump right in and get busy. I knew what I was doing when I got here. Last year I set up and ran an experiment, this year I scored data collected from a similar one so I got to see both sides of it,” Creel said.
This summer, 62 undergraduates participated in Discovery U programs at the Medical Center. SURE accepted 38 students out of 175 applicants. The remaining 24 students were enrolled in various other Discovery U programs.
For more information on SURE, go to graduate-school.umc.edu/SummerResearch.html