LFC-RFUMS Scholars: Nine years of unique biomedical access and edge
The Lake Forest College-Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science (LFC-RFUMS) Summer Scholars Program announces the 2017 class of scholars. This group will receive direct mentoring access with medical school professors and an early and deep scientific research edge in a program that has impacted more than 90 Foresters since 2008.
The 2017 cohort of 19 students replicates last year’s highest participation record in the College’s one-of-a-kind research training partnership with a medical school. The Foresters will work with 17 medical school faculty members representing eight major medical school departments at RFUMS, located 10 minutes from the College.
In this program, the medical school professors directly mentor Lake Forest students, who work alongside graduate students, postdoctoral scientists and health professionals gaining access to top-notch equipment and technologies. Some Foresters have become published authors with medical school faculty in a growing list of major journals that includes PLoS One, Behavioral Brain Research, Hippocampus, Nucleic Acids Research, Molecular Psychiatry, Biological Psychiatry, Journal of Neuroscience, and PLoS Genetics.
Several Lake Forest alumni who participated in the Summer Scholars Program are now in medical school, PhD programs in biology, neuroscience and psychology, as well as pursuing diverse health professions degrees, including optometry, physical therapy, pharmacy, dentistry, nursing, public health, counseling, and veterinary medicine. Others have become K-12 science teachers or are headed for biotech/pharmaceutical careers.
The continued success of this collaboration between a medical school and a national liberal arts college emphasizes how institutional location and access can produce a unique edge to the career development preparation of the College’s large cohort of pre-health students, according to Professor of Biology Shubhik DebBurman, who conceived the program in 2007 with RFUMS professor Kuei-Yuan Tseng.
“Nine years later, this 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 said. “It has become the model partnership that we are now using to build new connections with other Chicago-area medical schools.”
Tseng, who has mentored Lake Forest students every year since the program began, believes the partnership benefits RFUMS in important ways. “The main benefit is to have undergraduates in our labs so our graduate students and postdoctoral scientists can exercise their mentorship abilities,” Tseng said. “Perhaps the most valuable aspect for the student is to begin realizing how challenging it is to conceptualize an experimental design and its outcomes toward the discovery of new knowledge. Undergraduate students from Lake Forest are very motivated and always ready to go extra miles to achieve a goal.”
Professor of Microbiology-Immunology Neelam Sharma-Walia agrees. “Mentoring Lake Forest undergraduates has helped me tremendously in my career,” she said. “I have worked with undergraduates from other schools, but I can confidently say that Lake Forest students are very intelligent. Their preparedness to handle experiments is amazing. They want to be challenged and are very disciplined.”
Neuroscience major Lily Veldran ’17 spent four summers doing undergraduate research in a medical school setting while attending the College. This year Veldran conducted her senior thesis research working with Tseng on the neuroscience of addiction. “Doing a senior thesis better prepared me for my career,” said Veldran, who has secured a post-graduate research position at Covance Research Corporation in Madison, Wisconsin. “Since freshman year, doing research is something that I have really enjoyed. I learn new techniques, meet amazing people in the neuroscience field, and gain valuable knowledge about life in the academia research field.”
RFUMS Professor of Pharmacology Dr. J. Amiel Rosenkranz has mentored 10 Lake Forest students since the program’s inception. “The Lake Forest students in my lab have continued to impress me with their enthusiasm,” he said. “They ask excellent questions that sometimes initiate fruitful new avenues of research.” Four Foresters have already become published authors with Rosenkranz.
Hannah Samberg ’16, who studied neuroscience and Asian studies, has continued in Rosenkranz’ lab as she applies for medical school and works to complete her project for publication. “Working at RFUMS has enabled me to be mentored and guided by faculty who have firsthand knowledge about students in medical school,” Samberg said. “This experience has heightened my understanding of what medical school will be like and made me excited to apply and work toward my goal of becoming a psychiatrist.”
Neuroscience major Eliska Mrackova ’19 got her first exposure to research as a Richter Scholar last summer and wanted to work in a medical school lab for her second research opportunity. Mrackova will join the Rosenkranz lab, where she is most looking forward to improving her skills in animal handling and obtaining a better understanding of the neurophysiology of emotion and memory.
“As an undergraduate student, it is really exciting to be able to become part of a medical school research laboratory. Most students get that opportunity only at a graduate level,” she said. “This will improve my knowledge of neuroscience and allow me to determine what type of research I would like to pursue for a career in neuroscience.”
Trevor Buhr ’18 first began working with Professor of Neuroscience Dr. Robert Marr as a Groner Foundation Grant Recipient after completing his first year of college. Three summers later, this neuroscience major is completely hooked on research and highly motivated to pursue his senior thesis project—studying ways to use stem cell research to develop potential regenerative therapies for people with traumatic brain injuries and some forms of dementia.
“I’ve learned more about the scientific process, how to think about scientific questions, how to ask for help, and how to work with others to answer these questions,” Buhr said. “My senior thesis will be a good way to demonstrate what I’ve learned and give me a platform to further practice communicating complex ideas as understandable and relevant information for a greater population.”
Undergraduate research offers Buhr an opportunity “to practice thinking like a real scientist,” he said. “I’ve learned how to use complicated machinery, methods of analysis and quantification and statistical software that I will be readily able to apply to answer my own scientific questions.”
“This program gives students a competitive edge when applying to medical school and other graduate programs by connecting them to professional mentors, helping them to build their skills as medical researchers, and providing them with a realistic understanding of what it takes to succeed in medical school early in their academic careers,” Associate Vice President for Career and Professional Development Lisa Hinkley said.
The 2017 Scholar List
The scholars include eight rising seniors, 10 rising juniors, and one rising sophomore.
Trevor Buhr ’18, neuroscience major (Mentor: Professor Robert Marr, Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy)
Nebosja Markovic ’18, chemistry major (Mentor: Professor Jun-Yong Choe- Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology)
Tariq Aldaas ’19, biology major (Mentor: Professor Ronald Kaplan, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology)
Cade Brittain ’19, neuroscience major (Mentor: Professor David Everly, Department of Microbiology and Immunology)
Eliska Mrackova ’19, neuroscience and art history major (Mentor: Professor Amiel Rosenkranz, Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology)
Philip Ofosu-Amaah ’19 chemistry major (Mentor: Professor Gulam Waris, Department of Microbiology and Immunology)
The following students are supported by the Gorter Family Foundation, RFUMS, and the CAC:
Grant Brady ’18, neuroscience major (Mentor: Professor Michelle Hastings, Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy)
Michael Janecek ’18 history and neuroscience major, (Mentor: Professor Joanna Dabrowska, Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology)
Schuyler Kogan ’18, neuroscience and biology major (Mentor: Professor Robert Marr, Department of Neuroscience)
Agnieska Pastwa ’18, neuroscience major (Mentor: Professor Anthony West, Department of Neuroscience)
Thomas Steen ’18, neuroscience and psychology major (Mentor: Professor David Mueller, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology)
Emily Fink ’19, neuroscience major (Mentor: Professor Kaiwen Kam, Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy)
Sandra Campos ’20, undeclared (Mentor: Professor Neelam Sharma Walia, Department of Microbiology and Immunology)