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Summer Ventures Scholars Tour Laboratory of Structural Biology

By Eddy Ball
August 2007

John Peterson
John Peterson gave the students a half-hour overview of research at NIEHS. He used notable research accomplishments, such as investigations into lead toxicity and validation of the BRCA genes, to underscore the importance of basic research in advancing public health. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Bob London
Bob London, foreground, showed the students output from the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) unit prior to their visit to the equipment room itself. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Eugene DeRose
In the NMR lab, Eugene DeRose, seated, explained the liquid nitrogen cooling that reduces resistance in the NMR machinery to almost zero. He also eased students' concerns about the effects of the powerful magnetic fields produced by the equipment. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Ken Tomer
Ken Tomer, right, conducted his part of the program in a hallway. Abstracts of recent studies served as the visuals for his presentation. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Twelve young scholars participating in the Summer Ventures in Science and Mathematics Program (SVSM) ( Exit NIEHS at North Carolina Central University visited NIEHS on July 10. The students, academically talented rising juniors and seniors in state high schools, attended a two-hour program of lectures and lab visits as part of their four-week residential curriculum.

The visit began with an overview of NIEHS research by Public Affairs Specialist John Peterson, who used high-profile NIEHS research findings to illustrate the interplay of genes, environment and time in the pathogenesis of disease. Peterson's remarks were followed by more detailed talks from Laboratory of Structural Biology (LSB) Research Physicist Bob London, Ph.D., and LSB Scientific Computing Support Specialist Eugene DeRose, Ph.D., on nuclear magnetic resonance imaging. LSB Supervisory Research Chemist Ken Tomer provided an overview on high-sensitivity assessment of epoxygenase gene variability related to inflammation and hypertension and identification of markers for treatment-resistant prostate cancer.

Accompanying the students to NIEHS was John Myers, Ph.D., professor of Organic Chemistry at NCCU. His institution is the Triangle sponsor for Summer Ventures, which is coordinated by the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. In the classroom component of the program, Myers is focusing on isolation of molecules, and the two field trips the students experienced, at NIEHS and RTI International, developed that theme by exposing participants to real-world applications of what they are learning.

Summer Ventures is a free, state-funded program of intensive study with room, board and tuition provided without charge to participants. Since the program's inception in 1984, NCCU has been one of six sites across the state where the program is conducted. Other sites include Appalachian State University, East Carolina University, UNC at Charlotte, UNC at Wilmington and Western Carolina University.

In addition to their classroom and institution-based experiences, students interact with professionals from other institutions, government and industry, who guide students through an academic program specially designed to provide experience in scientific inquiry and mathematical problem solving. NIEHS has been a popular field trip option ever since the program's beginning.

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