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RISE to the Doctorate students using prominent summer internships to conduct research

Gaining hands-on experience and insight into their future careers, three undergraduate students from New Mexico State University's Minority Biomedical Research Support - Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (MBRS-RISE) to Excellence Program are spending their summer in internships at prestigious institutions around the country.



Students in New Mexico State University's Minority Biomedical Research Support - Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) to Excellence program Jessica Garcia (left), Ana Cadena (center) and Kacie Boden are participating in research internships at prestigious institutions around the country. (NMSU courtesy photo)

Developed by the National Institutes of Health, RISE programs nationwide emphasize academic achievement, professional development and research training for graduate (doctoral) and undergraduate students in pursuit of biomedical and biobehavioral research careers. As part of the NMSU program students are encouraged to take on summer internships.

Senior Ana Cadena will be immersed in a 10-week internship with Harvard Medical School's Summer Clinical and Translational Research Program. Cadena will analyze data obtained from magnetic resonance spectroscopy to determine if there is a connection between diabetes and Alzheimer's disease based on the chemistry of the brain.

"I am truly looking forward to conducting the research itself," Cadena said. "My family has a history of diabetes and Alzheimer's disease, so these are both topics that are of interest to me. I am also finding it extremely exciting and delightful meeting both the other individuals taking part in this internship and the individuals I work with."

Majoring in biochemistry, Cadena has taken part in the RISE since 2009 and credits the program for her opportunity to work in her field of interest this summer.

"Without a doubt I would not have applied to this internship if I had not been in the RISE program," Cadena said. "I only found out about this internship through professor Elba Serrano, my mentor and RISE program director. My goal is to become an M.D./Ph.D. and focus on the neurology/neuroscience field. Consequently, I am deeply interested in the research I am doing since I will be able to determine the chemical changes that take place in the brain in the different stages of Alzheimer's disease. Hopefully this information could possibly lead to an explanation as to what causes this disease and hopefully one day this will lead to an effective treatment."

While RISE offers workshops for students on how to find summer internships and provides students with a list of programs they can apply for, senior Jessica Garcia did additional research to find her ideal internship.

"Using the skills that NMSU professor Graciela Unguez taught us during the RISE to the Doctorate professional development weekly workshop, I found the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) at the Mayo Graduate School College of Medicine," Garcia said. "I then asked my RISE research mentor, Dr. Unguez, to approve the internship and school, to make sure that applying for the internship was a good decision. I also asked for RISE director and NMSU professor Elba Serrano's input because she is knowledgeable about summer internships and very willing to help."

Encouraged by her RISE mentors, Garcia set out to Rochester, Minn. for 10 weeks, where she is conducting research on how the digestive system moves food through the body.

"My summer research laboratory is interested in digestive system motility," Garcia said. "Food is moved through the digestive system with the aid of muscles. I am conducting a collaborative research project where culture intestine muscle cells are subjected to mechanical stress in order to help the cells regain their in vivo gene expression. The results of this study will help scientists have a more accurate in vitro research model when they are researching on a treatment for digestive system motility diseases."

Garcia, who is majoring in biology, has been involved with the RISE program for a year-and-a-half. According to Garcia, RISE has given her opportunities to conduct research throughout her undergraduate career and better prepare for her future.

"The Mayo Graduate School of Medicine is one of the schools I will be applying to for my Ph.D. studies. I am therefore mostly excited to experience the school and medical center to find out if this school is a good fit for me and I, a good fit for the school," Garcia said. "I want to congratulate my mentors Graciela Unguez, Elba Serrano and Jennifer Randall for their hard work. Without their help, I couldn't have triumphed."

Senior Kacie Boden is an animal science major with an emphasis in pre-veterinary medicine. Returning for her second year in the RISE program, Boden applied for various internships this past spring she found through RISE, and landed an internship opportunity with the Southern Great Plains Dairy Consortium.

The six-week summer internship includes 52 students from around the U.S. and provides classes and dairy visits in Clovis, N.M. and the surrounding areas.

"The internship provides multiple, highly professional individuals from the dairy industry to come speak with us about everything that is involved with running a successful dairy business including finances, feeding and nutrition, facilities, diseases, reproduction and management systems," Boden said.

During her experience, Boden had the opportunity to travel to a diagnostic lab in Amarillo, Texas, where she dissected a cow.

"From this internship I hope to learn all about the duties and future for a veterinarian in the dairy industry," Boden said. "I have a new appreciation for how we get milk and the prices that we pay as a consumer. Before I wanted to be a large-animal veterinarian. Now I am leaning more towards becoming a food-animal veterinarian with an emphasis in dairy global medicine."

At the end of the six weeks, Boden will return to NMSU to begin research in the laboratory of NMSU Animal and Range Sciences professor Ryan Ashley, studying reproduction in farm animals. Boden has already been active in her own research project under NMSU Animal and Range Sciences professor Clint Loest, studying ruminant nutrition.

"The RISE program has allowed me to perform research, present oral and poster presentations and this coming year have my first publication," Boden said.

Boden will be applying to DVM/Ph.D. programs this summer.

RISE is funded by a National Institutes of Health initiative that supports student scientific development activities in minority-serving institutions through awards from the Divion of Minority Opportunities in Research (Grant #R25GM061222). The goal of NIH MBRS-RISE is to build and diversify the nation's health sciences workforce by increasing the number of students from underrepresented groups who complete Ph.D. degree programs in biomedical and behavioral research. The NMSU RISE program achieves this goal by uniting committed faculty mentors and talented student scientists from four colleges and twelve departments.

For more information on the RISE program visit http://biology-web.nmsu.edu/nmsurise/index.html or visit their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/NMSU-RISE/213006236810.