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Spectrum

Two-for-one: Mentoring and research edge

Now in its eighth year, the Lake Forest College-Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science (RFUMS) Summer Scholars Program continues to provide students and recent grads with prime mentoring by medical school professors and an early—and deep—scientific research advantage.

This summer’s cohort of 19 current students and four 2016 grads broke new ground: It was the largest group yet and doubled the first cohort in this one-of-a-kind undergraduate research training partnership with a medical school. Since the partnership began, more than 80 Foresters have participated.

“We are getting stronger, better, and larger,” Professor of Biology Shubhik DebBurman said. “The program has expanded the College’s ability to provide high-quality research experiences to life science majors, helping meet a heavy demand from our students for such opportunities.” DebBurman co-created the program with RFUMS Professor Kuei-Yuan Tseng in 2008.

This summer, Foresters partnered with 21 RFUMS faculty members while researching alongside graduate students, postdoctoral scientists, and health professionals.

First-timer Luke Shylanski ’18 worked with RFUMS Professor of Neuroscience Grace E. Stutzmann studying the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease. “Alzheimer’s was one of the first things I learned about at the beginning of my coursework in my First-Year Studies course at Lake Forest,” Shylanski said.

The RFUMS faculty appreciates the preparedness Foresters bring to the program. “Undergraduate students from Lake Forest are very motivated and always ready to go the extra mile to achieve a goal,” Tseng said. “Such qualities are often hard to find in undergraduates.” Bringing a good skill set to the program made it possible for many Lake Forest alumni to become published authors, alongside their RFUMS mentors, in major scientific journals.

Daryn Cass ’10 published numerous articles working in Tseng’s lab as part of the program and for several years after as a research tech. “The success I have had, thus far, is in large part thanks to the extensive amount of time and effort Dr. Tseng has put into teaching me the methodology and thought process that goes into scientific research,” Cass said in 2014. “Something he always emphasizes is that we must learn how to think critically when addressing a problem or evaluating results.” Today, Cass is attending medical school at Rosalind Franklin.

Other Lake Forest grads who participated in the summer research are pursuing PhD programs in biology, neuroscience, and psychology, or health-profession degrees in optometry, physical therapy, pharmacy, dentistry, nursing, public health, counseling, and veterinary medicine. Still others have become K–12 science teachers or entered biotech or pharmaceutical careers. Natalie Simak ’11 completed medical school at RFUMS and is headed for residency at the University of Chicago, while Rida Khan ’14, currently an associate scientist at Abbott Labs, has been accepted into a dual-degree MBA/MS program at Johns Hopkins University.

To further bolster the program’s growth, the Lake Forest Career Advancement Center has joined forces with the Grace Elizabeth Groner Foundation and the Gorter Family Foundation. “This partnership gives students a competitive edge when applying to medical school and other graduate programs,” Associate Vice President for Career and Professional Development Lisa Hinkley said. “It connects students with professional mentors, helping them to build their skills as medical researchers, and provides them with a realistic understanding of what it takes to succeed in medical school early in their academic careers.”