Friday, September 02, 2016

FAMU students attend prestigious UCLA summer research programs

Students from the College of Science and Technology are back in Tallahassee after spending two months representing Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

From June 19-Aug. 13, 2016, Amber Courtland, Edesthele Decius, and Curtis Crowther attended the UCLA Medical Imaging Informatics (MII) summer research program, while Deja Goodsen, Ugoma C. Onubogu, Rebecca Oyetoro, and Robert Seniors attended the Bruins-in-Genomics summer research program.

According to their website, MII is a practical experience program in genomics and bioinformatics for students who are interested in integrating quantitative and biological knowledge, and pursuing graduate degrees in the biological, biomedical or health sciences.

The UCLA Medical Imaging Informatics training program promotes diversity within the STEM discipline with an emphasis on biomedical big data.

Decius, a junior biology student, said that during the eight-week program the Rattlers were able to forge strong friendships based on their shared interest, while completing impactful cancer research.

“We all became close friends and ended up purposely taking classes together this semester. Although we were all split up for the research projects, we were able to divide and conquer and I think we did some meaningful research.”

Not only did the students show up and show off their Rattler intellect, medical genomics and informatics know-how, they also took home prizes. Ugoma Onubogu received special recognition for her group poster project on network analysis of gastric cancer across different populations.  The daughter of a FAMU-educated pharmacist and a Rattler trained nurse practitioner, Onubogu worked with one other UCLA student to identify pathways that lead to gastric cancer.

“We tried to identify common genetic pathways in different areas around the world. We isolated 15 pathways and found key regulated genes along those pathways. It’s very significant. The next step is drug targeting, a technology that allows for little to no damage to other noncancerous cells.”

Robert Seniors, a biology premedical student and alum of the summer research program, said he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to attend the program a second time. Seniors also said the genomics program was more related to his future career and that he has a personal conviction to do cancer research.

“When I was in 8th grade, it was revealed that my sister had a benign brain tumor the size of a baseball. Dr. Pinkus at the University of Florida’s Shands Hospital removed the tumor. It opened my eyes to someone being in their most vulnerable state and someone else being able to bring them back as a driving force or motivation. I want to do that for someone,” Seniors said.

Four of the seven students are part of FAMU’s Medical Scholars Program. Director Michael Smith, Dr.P.H., M.P.H., expressed that he is very proud of the high achieving student members of MSP and they represented FAMU well.

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