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Environmental Factor, November 2012

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NIEHS welcomes Scholars Connect charter cohort

By Eddy Ball

Ericka Reid, Ph.D.

Reid’s office oversees a broad range of NIEHS outreach and diversity activities that include guided tours of the facilities, maintaining a speakers’ bureau, and representing the Institute at national meetings of minority-focused scientific groups. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

A new internship program, aimed at getting minority scholars involved in the environmental health sciences, officially launched Sept. 17 at NIEHS. The charter cohort of nine undergraduates from universities in the Raleigh/Durham, N.C., area are part of the NIEHS Scholars Connect Program (NSCP), which is designed to foster the development of students who belong to groups traditionally underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers.

The participants are highly motivated sophomores, juniors, and seniors at St. Augustine’s University (SAU), North Carolina Central University (NCCU), and North Carolina State University (NCSU) with STEM majors. They represent a diverse range of study concentrations in biology, chemistry, mathematics, and public health, and have at least a 3.0 grade point average overall and a 3.5 in their major field(s) of study.

“We ask the students to commit to two semesters, and a third semester is an option,” said NIEHS Office of Science Education and Diversity Director Ericka Reid, Ph.D., who organized the program as semester-long active learning experiences, or connections, for the scholars. “This is the fall connection, which runs Sept. 17 through Dec. 7.”

The scholars will spend up to 20 hours on research-related activities each week, during the 2012-2013 academic year, as paid interns, while they continue their academic programs at their home institutions. Research-related activities include laboratory work mentored by lead researchers, scientists, and postdoctoral fellows, along with literature reviews, participation in lab meetings, and attendance at research workshops and seminars.

The program requires interns to participate in weekly NSCP professional development seminars, where they engage in dynamic dialogues with NIEHS scientists on environmental health research topics. The seminars also aim to further the scholars’ scientific development, through opportunities to receive research-relevant software training, in preparation for presenting findings from their own scientific research at the end of each connection. The presentation represents the culmination of eight to 12 weeks of defining a research project, constructing an appropriate hypothesis, and conducting experiments to test that hypothesis.

NSCP operates under the supervision of part-time program coordinator Courtnea Rainey, a Ph.D. student in psychology at Duke University. The program is funded by the NIEHS Office of the Director, Division of Intramural Research, and Division of the National Toxicology Program.

Beginning in November, NSCP will begin accepting applications for the 2013 scholar selection.

Robert Alston

NCCU student Robert Alston is working in the NIEHS Developmental Neurobiology Group with lead researcher Patricia Jensen, Ph.D., and postdoctoral fellow Jacqueline de Marchena, Ph.D. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Lovie Matthews

NCCU student Lovie Matthews is being mentored by lead researcher David Miller, Ph.D., and staff scientist Ron Cannon, Ph.D., in the NIEHS Intracellular Regulation Group. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Charles Okechukwu

Assigned to NTP laboratories, NCCU student Charles Okechukwu works in the Neurotoxicology Group with lead researcher Jean Harry, Ph.D., and in the Inorganic Toxicology Group with postdoctoral fellow Ruben Orihuela Garcia, Ph.D. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Jennifer Plair

SAU student Jennifer Plair is working in the NTP Molecular Pathogenesis Group under the direction of lead researcher Darlene Dixon, D.V.M., Ph.D., and biologist Linda Yu. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Brandon Williams

As part of the NIEHS Gamete Biology Group, NCSU student Brandon Williams conducts research under the direction of lead researcher Mitch Eddy, Ph.D., and postdoctoral fellow Tracy Clement, Ph.D. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Courtnea Rainey

An important part of Rainey’s job is organizing the weekly NSCP seminar series. She is scheduled to be a presenter in three of the 12 seminars during the fall connection. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Michael Lekwuwa

NCCU student Michael Lekwuwa is working with technical lab manager Kevin Gerrish, Ph.D., and biologist Laura Wharey in the NIEHS Microarray Group. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Kacey McHoney

As part of the NIEHS Environmental Cardiopulmonary Disease Group, SAU student Kacey McHoney is working with Scientific Director Darryl Zeldin, M.D., and postdoctoral fellow Matthew Edin, Ph.D. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Jaydave Patel

NCSU student Jaydave Patel is being mentored by lead researcher Anton Jetten, Ph.D., and staff scientist Hong Soon Kang, Ph.D., in the Cell Biology Group . (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Malcolm Richbourg

SAU student Malcolm Richbourg is being mentored by lead researcher Humphrey Yao, Ph.D., biologist Karina Rodriguez, Ph.D., and postdoctoral fellow Heather Franco, Ph.D., in the NIEHS Reproductive Developmental Biology Group . (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

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