UMMC Graduate School's summer-research programs link local undergraduates with lab science
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JACKSON, Miss. – When Brandon native Jeremiah Reese gets the inevitable question asking what he did last summer, he can say he did laboratory research on the immune-system of one of Mississippi’s signature animals – catfish.
Reese finished a summer biomedical research program Aug. 2 at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. Later in this month he’ll start his freshman year at Belhaven University a biology major with a chemistry minor.
He 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, Reese and 37 other students got 10 weeks of hands-on biomedical research and training on laboratory techniques and equipment.
They attend 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 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 Aug. 2 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.
Reese worked in the laboratory of Dr. Eva Bengten, UMMC professor of microbiology. He worked on a research project that examines the immune system of catfish. The research introduced him to laboratory techniques including chemical mixing, cloning and sequencing, flow cytometry and pipetting.
Reese and his six siblings were homeschooled. He grew up interested in science since his father, Dr. Paul Reese, is an associate professor of biology at Belhaven.
“I’ve probably been exposed to more science than most people,” he said with a chuckle. “I’ve really enjoyed the experience this summer. It’s given me a new joy in science and I hope to be back next year.”
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