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Ten YU Students Selected for Summer Undergraduate Research Program at Einstein

Many college students spend their summer vacations on the beach, at a camp or relaxing at home, enjoying a well-earned break from research papers and exams.

Bella Wolf, a University Undergraduate Summer Research Scholar, hopes to pursue a career in ophthalmology.

Some, like Bella Wolf of Woodmere, NY, dissect mice eyes.

“I hope to go to medical school and become an ophthalmologist, so I feel very fortunate that I have been given the opportunity to work directly with mice eyes to help determine the DNA pathways that leads to lens transparency and the ability to see clearly,” she said.

The Stern College for Women junior is one of ten Yeshiva University undergraduates participating in the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP), an advanced biomedical research program at YU’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Directed by Dr. Victoria Freedman, Einstein’s associate dean for graduate programs in the biomedical sciences, and Dr. Barry Potvin, a professor at Yeshiva College and visiting professor in the cell biology department at Einstein, the program has drawn 55 students in total from a variety of colleges and universities to engage in cutting-edge scientific studies, mentored by Einstein faculty.

“SURP provides a unique opportunity for students to work full time in a research laboratory, to attend lectures by renowned scientists who are describing their latest exciting discoveries, to meet students with the same interests from all over the U.S., and to live and work for nine weeks as part of a community of dedicated scientists,” said Freedman.

YU Summer Undergraduate Research Program Participants: (Top row) Blinick, Miller, Gutstein, Hasten, Edelman and Wolf. (Bottom row) Barris, Novogrodsky, Kaminetzky and Sanders.

Each student is placed in a research laboratory in his or her field of interest and works closely with graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. Group seminars and workshops throughout the summer give participants a broad overview of the many types of research conducted at Einstein and provides them with strategies to become better scientists. In August, the students share their work as part of a poster session.

Wolf, who is working the lab of Dr. Alex Cvekl in the department of ophthalmology and visual sciences and genetics, hopes to eventually attend Einstein for medical school. “I’m hoping to gain a more comprehensive and complete understanding of the inner mechanisms of the eye during this program,” she said.

The 10 YU students are clustered into two programs. Eight students—David Barris, Mark Kaminetzky, Eitan Novogrodsky and Brian Sanders of Yeshiva College and Rachel Blinick, Batya Edelman, Leah Gutstein and Erica Hasten of Stern College for Women—were awarded scholarships through the Roth Institute Scholars Program, funded by the Ernst and Hedwig Roth Institute of Biomedical Science Education at YU. In addition, Stern students Wolf and Tova Miller were chosen as part of the University Undergraduate Summer Research Scholars Program, which is supported through the Provost’s Office. Each program provides students with a stipend and on-campus housing.

Mark Kaminetzky, a Roth Institute Scholar, is majoring in chemistry and hopes to pursue a medical degree.

Novogrodsky, of Teaneck, NJ, found welcoming mentors in the staff of Dr. Vinayaka Prasad’s HIV research laboratory. “The entire lab has really taken me under their wings to teach me and I’m very grateful for that,” said the aspiring doctor, describing a project the team had helped him design. “The lab’s research, though removed from the world of clinical HIV/AIDS treatment, aims to build as much knowledge about the deadly disease as possible and thereby help in its treatment. Especially given the human toll AIDS still takes worldwide and the fact that we are working in a city where AIDS first wrought its gruesome effects, the work is inspiring.”

Blinick, of Toronto, Canada, is participating in SURP’s first clinical research opportunity at Montefiore Medical Center. There she is a part of Dr. Richard Gorlick’s research group, which focuses on osteosarcoma, the most common type of bone cancer in children. “What fascinates me about my research is the potential for translational applications,” said Blinick, who plans to pursue an M.D. and possibly a master’s in public health. “It is incredible that we can conduct basic research on actual patient samples to work towards finding better ways to treat sick children.”

Though she enjoyed SURP’s social excursions, which included a Broadway show and a visit to the Bronx Zoo this year, Blinick found the new lab techniques she was learning the most exciting aspect of the program. “I love the feeling of being wrapped up in a project, focused on accomplishing something new and waiting to see how the results will pan out,” she said. “The excitement that accompanies you as you do a technique for the first time can only be experienced in the lab.”