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The CSUF Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Programs


Program Overview

The recruitment into and retention of students in the natural sciences and mathematics is a top priority of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (CNSM), at California State University, Fullerton. In support of that function and a national need to recruit students into research careers in the biomedical sciences, faculty in the CSUF departments of biological sciences, chemistry and biochemistry, mathematics and science education, in consultation with colleagues at Fullerton College, Saddleback College, Mt. San Antonio College, and Santa Ana College, as well as the Orange County Department of Education science education section and science teachers from several Orange County high schools, have developed the CSUF HHMI Research Scholars Program, which is funded with a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. This program supports the involvement of undergraduate college students, as well as some high school science teachers and students in three different endeavors:

  • A Weekend Research Experience for Weekend Research Scholars
  • A Summer Research Experience for Summer Research Scholars
  • A Two-Year Intensive Research Experience for Undergraduate Research Scholars and Masters students

 

Program Goal

New Grant, from September 2012 to September 2016

The overarching goal of the CSUF HHMI Research Scholars Program is to promote and encourage the flow of undergraduates from our diverse populations, into science careers as leading researchers and teachers, by identifying, developing and preparing those with exceptional potential, and particularly those underrepresented in STEM disciplines and/or with educational/financial disadvantages.

Long-term expected outcomes are to produce:

  • More leading researchers in STEM with PhD, MD/PhD and other professional/PhD-linked degrees
  • More leading science teachers for K-12 and community colleges (CCs)
  • Increased numbers of individuals from underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds entering STEM careers in the workforce

This translates into short-term objectives of:

  • Recruiting, interesting and/or developing increased numbers of capable students (high school and college) to become majors in STEM that go into STEM careers
  • Producing more high caliber graduates who enter PhD, MD/PhD and analogous programs with the intention of engaging in research careers in STEM disciplines and becoming leaders in their fields.
  • Producing more high caliber graduates who become credentialed as science teachers.

Objectives and outcomes shall be achieved through interactions of CSUF undergraduates, CC undergraduates, high school students, and high school science teachers in an integrated 3-part program (a potential model for these objectives) composed of:

  • A 2-year intensive Undergraduate Research Scholars program (URS) for CSUF undergraduates (UGs) of exceptional potential, involving in-depth faculty mentored research, developmental workshops/seminars and other preparatory activities to promote entry into doctoral programs, additionally enriched by inclusion of some MS students (1 per year) whose life experience/convictions are expected to support/ease the pathway of UGs into doctoral studies but that also exploits an extra pool of talented underrepresented minority individuals.
  • Summer Research Experiences (SRE), in which beginning undergraduates from CSUF and four linked community colleges spend ten weeks, and cohorts of two high school students and one high school science teacher spend five weeks doing actual research in individual faculty laboratories.
  • Weekend Research Experiences (WREs) for beginning CC and CSUF undergraduates as well as high school students and science teachers, who carry out multifaceted experiments on a faculty research question over one weekend, then putting together and presenting the results on the following Saturday.
  • Opportunities for URS and SRE undergraduates to give a mentored class on their research to high school students; and/or to assist in supervising short term research experiences at CSUF and CCs.

Weekend Research Experience

Weekend Research Experience for Community College Students, High School Students, and High School Science and Math Teachers
Two weekends in November

Program Goal and Description

The HHMI Weekend Research program targets the engagement of beginning community college (CC) students, high school (HS) students and some of their science and math teachers in research experiences that will excite their interest in chemistry, biology and mathematics. It is particularly interested in supporting those who have little or no experience with, or knowledge of, research. Students will immerse themselves in three days of in-depth work on an actual research question under the supervision of faculty mentors over two contiguous weekends.

Entry into the HHMI Weekend Research Experience is by application. CC students applicants must have had one college level course in chemistry or biology. High school students must be juniors or seniors, have completed a high school course in chemistry and/or biology, plus advanced algebra. HS Teachers must be teaching science or math in an Orange County high school. Teachers selected will receive a $500 stipend for participation; CC students a stipend of $250. For further information and specifics, please download the application form from the CSUF-HHMI website (http://hhmi.fullerton.edu).

Sample Weekend Research Project

The Fall 2013 project was concerned with a fundamental question in molecular evolution, which is to understand how changes at the molecular level (gene DNA or the proteins encoded by the genes) alter, affect, and change the way organisms, organs, cells, and cellular systems adapt to their environments, to cope with changes and challenges, and survive. The specific project for the 2013 WRE sought to determine whether naturally occurring DNA variants of a gene that codes for HSPA1A (a heat shock protein) affect the functionality of this protein. The project used recombinant proteins that carry specific particular mutations found in normal humans, and compare the activities/functions to those of the most common (wild type) forms of the proteins, using specific biochemical assays. Any changes in the function of these proteins suggest that different human populations may respond differently to stresses, such as heat shock, oxygen radicals, and heavy metals, or conditions of diseases like heart disease and cancer.

The Fall 2012 project was led by Dr. Melanie Sacco’s lab. Dr. Sacco's lab has determined that the tobacco-related plant Nicotiana glutinosa can defend itself against the pathological effects of Beet Western Yellows Virus (BWYV) and Potato Leaf Roll Virus (PLRV) by using the protein products of an unknown resistance gene. This protein protects Nicotiana glutinosa by recognizing a specific protein in the viruses and signaling the infected plant cells to commit suicide, thus preventing the virus from spreading to other cells. Students worked in small groups focused on different plant species related to Nicotiana glutinosa to determine whether the resistance seen in Nicotiana glutinosa is also found in other closely related species. Students isolated plant RNA and make complementary DNA (cDNA) to use for the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), with PCR product analysis by electrophoresis on the second day to see whether the virus is present (susceptible plants) or not detected (resistant plants). Plants were also inoculated to observe whether or not they display the hypersensitivity response (cells that commit suicide), and relate the response to the presence or absence of the resistance gene and gene-products in question.

The Fall 2011 project was directed at finding small organic molecules that would prevent the action of one of the most potent natural poisons known to man, the botulinum neurotoxin. Human absorption (injection, inhalation and/or ingestion) of the neurotoxin causes the serious disease of botulism. Tiny amounts (microgram quantities) of the neurotoxin can easily kill even an adult human. The bacteria that produces the neurotoxin can grow particularly well on meats, in an anaerobic (oxygen deprived) environment (such as punctured tin cans). Most sources of the neurotoxin are from spoilled canned foods. However there is a greater fear that this deadly neurotoxin can be used as a biological weapon. In very small doses, the botulinum neurotoxin is used medically, most notably to remove wrinkles from skin (Botox). Treatments for botulism are antibody based therapies, which are expensive and in short supply. Currently, there are no small molecule therapeutics for treatment or prevention of botulism. Discoverying small molecule inhibitors for the botulinum neurotoxin would provide a much needed therapeutic for treatment of botulism. That is one of the research objectives for Dr. Nicholas Salzameda, the organic chemist who led this Weekend Research Experience.

During the first weekend, a series of different potential inhibitors were synthesized in the organic chemistry laboratory by participants and tested for effectiveness against the action of two strains of this toxin. On Saturday of the second weekend, all the data was compiled, analyzed, and shared. Each individual participant produced their own compounds. All of the compounds were evaluated for inhibition of the botulinum neurotoxin. Comparisons of the effectiveness of subgroups of compounds with slight differences in structure will help to define the kind of molecules that are likely to be most effective against the toxin. It should be noted that participants were in no danger of exposure to botulinum toxin, even when they screened their compound for inhibition of botulinum neurotoxin, function, as the latter involves a harmless screening procedure utilizing just one half (the light chain) of the toxin protein.

 

Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates

Ten Week Program at California State University, Fullerton
Early June to mid-August
Application due early March

Program Description

The HHMI Summer Research Experience is designed to expose undergraduates with some background in mathematics, chemistry and biology to actual, state of the art research, with the aim of stimulating their interest in biomedical research careers. Working one on one with individual faculty and their groups for 10 weeks, students will test hypotheses with current methods to learn first hand how science is carried out to answer questions directly and indirectly about health and disease. A list of faculty and their research interests is appended to the application form.

The program is modelled upon the long standing and successful Cal State Fullerton Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program in chemistry and biochemistry, funded by the National Science Foundation. Students will produce research results, read the scientific literature, and learn how to present their findings orally and in writing. The program is particularly interested in supporting those who have little or no experience with, or knowledge of, research. Applicants must have had at least one college level course in mathematics, and in chemistry or biology. Individuals selected will be expected to work full time (at least 40 hours per week) in the laboratory for the 10 week period. Depending on the project, work time could be flexible and vary from day to day. Time inbetween is devoted to reading about background, making plans, analyzing data, preparing oral and written reports, and the like. [Students apprentice with individual faculty who have specific research interests.] Participation in the program is not compatible with taking summer courses or holding jobs.

Faculty Research Projects

Click here for a list of the research interests of the HHMI faculty at Cal State Fullerton.

Eligibility, Application, and Compensation

Undergraduates from Cal State Fullerton and the four participating Community Colleges (Fullerton, Santa Ana, Mount San Antonio, and Saddleback) are eligible. Entry is by application (Download the application form). Top applicants will be interviewed. Only serious and committed students will be selected. Each student will receive a stipend of $3,900 and course credit.

Faculty connected with this HHMI Program at community colleges are:
Dr. Asim (Mohd) Ansari, Chair, Department of Chemistry, Fullerton College (mansari@fullcoll.edu);
Dr. Tony Huntley, co-Chair of Biology, Saddleback College (thuntley@saddleback.edu);
Dr. Beta Meyer, Professor of Anatomy & Physiology, Mt.SAC (emeyer@mtsac.edu);
Dr. Kathleen Takahashi, Professor of Life Sciences, Santa Ana College (takahashi_kathleen@sac.edu); and
Dr. Jo Wen Wu, Fullerton College (jwu@fullcoll.edu).

For questions contact Dr. Maria Linder (mlinder@fullerton.edu) or Mary Flores (mflores@fullerton.edu).

Applications for the HHMI supported Summer Research Programs are available on the Apply page in January.

 

High School Science and Math Teachers Summer Research Program

Paid Summer Research Experience: Intensive Five Week Program at California State University, Fullerton
Early July to mid-August
Application due early March

Program Description

A major goal of this HHMI supported program is to engage high school students and science teachers in research experiences that we expect will excite them and add to their depth of knowledge of basic chemistry, biology and mathematics. The objectives are to promote interest among students in biomedical research (including organic chemistry and mathematics) and to refresh their teachers in these disciplines by directly participating in actual research projects, working with individual faculty at Cal State Fullerton. Teachers and pairs of students will experience what it is like to break new ground and investigate new areas in the sciences (and mathematics) that underlie and support biomedical research.

Teachers paired with students will be expected to work full time (at least 40 hours per week) in the laboratory for the 5 week period. Depending on the project, work time could be flexible and vary from day to day. Time inbetween is devoted to reading about background, making plans, analyzing data, preparing oral and written reports, and the like. [You are apprenticing with an individual faculty member to carry out original research on questions the faculty member is trying to answer.] In addition, participants will have a weekly one hour seminar with Dr. Barbara Gonzalez, to discuss how what is learned in the laboratory can be applied to the high school science learning environment.

Faculty Research Projects

Click here for a list of the research interests of the HHMI faculty at Cal State Fullerton.

Eligibility, Application, and Compensation

Science teachers from all parts of Orange County (CA) are eligible for the program, and must apply by submitting an application (Download the application form). Five teachers will be selected by a subcommittee of the HHMI Scholars Program Steering Committee, which includes Dr. Denise Antrim (Science Coordinator for the Orange County Department of Education). Each teacher will be paid a stipend of $3,900.00 and receive course credit.

For questions contact Dr. Maria Linder (mlinder@fullerton.edu) or Dr. Barbara Gonzalez (bgonzalez@fullerton.edu).

Applications for the HHMI supported Summer Research Programs are available on the Apply page in January.

 

High School Student Summer Research Program

Intensive Five Week Program at California State University, Fullerton
Early July to mid-August
Application due early March

Program Description

A major goal of this HHMI supported program is to engage high school students and science teachers in research experiences that we expect will excite them and add to their depth of knowledge of basic chemistry, biology and mathematics. The objectives are to promote interest among students in biomedical research (including organic chemistry and mathematics) and to refresh teachers in these disciplines by directly participating in actual research projects, working with individual faculty at Cal State Fullerton. Teachers and pairs of students will experience what it is like to break new ground and investigate new areas in the sciences (and mathematics) that underlie and support biomedical research. To learn more about individual faculty research interests, go to the HHMI website (below).

Pairs of students with their teacher will be expected to work full time (at least 40 hours per week) in the laboratory for the 5 week period. Depending on the project, work time could be flexible and vary from day to day. Time inbetween is devoted to reading about background, making plans, analyzing data, preparing oral and written reports, and the like. [You are apprenticing with an individual faculty member to carry out original research on questions the faculty member is trying to answer.] In addition, participants will have a weekly one hour seminar with Dr. Barbara Gonzalez, to discuss how what is learned in the laboratory can be applied to high school science learning.

Faculty Research Projects

Click here for a list of the research interests of the HHMI faculty at Cal State Fullerton.

Eligibility, Application, and Compensation

Students in Orange County high schools who have taken junior or senior level science and math are eligible for the program and can apply by filling out the appropriate (high school student) application form for this program, available here. Teachers and students will be selected by a subcommittee of the HHMI Research Scholars Program Steering Committee, which includes Dr. Denise Antrim (Science Coordinator for the Oarange County Department of Education). Students will receive a $1,000 stipend and course credit.

For questions contact Dr. Maria Linder (mlinder@fullerton.edu) or Dr. Barbara Gonzalez (bgonzalez@fullerton.edu).

Applications for the HHMI supported Summer Research Programs are available on the Apply page in January.

 

The Two-Year HHMI Undergraduate Research Scholars Program

Intensive Two-Year Program at California State University, Fullerton

Begins early June of the 1st year - ends May 31 of the 2nd year

Applicants from underrepresented/minority groups and/or those with educational and financial disadvantages are particularly encouraged to apply

For CSUF Undergraduates majoring in biology, biochemistry and related science/math disciplines

Eligibility:

  • Junior status
  • GPA of 3.2 or higher
  • strong interest in and potential for engaging in a science/math research career at the doctoral level, or teaching career at the Master's or doctoral level

Activities and compensation:

  • Do research with a faculty mentor for 15+ hours/week during the academic year and full time in summer (one summer at a PhD granting or comparable institution)
  • Participate in weekly pro-seminar during the academic year
  • Travel to and participate in scientific conferences ($1,500 support)
  • $11,000 stipend
  • $5,000 scholarship

Program Description

The HHMI Program is an intensive 2 year program of research, supportive studies and workshops for yearly cohorts of 4 undergraduates who have exceptional potential for, and a serious commitment to pursuing, graduate and professional studies in the biomedical sciences, and who are willing to undergo rigorous preparation for that goal.

This program will allow some of the most promising biology, chemistry, biochemistry and mathematics majors interested in biomedical sciences to immerse themselves in two years of in-depth laboratory research experiences with faculty mentors, provide them a solid grounding in statistics and research ethics, reading and analysis of the primary literature, writing and presentation of research findings, and produce a senior thesis. They will have opportunities to interact directly with ethnically diverse scientists from across the country, present their research at local and national conferences, and visit and learn how to prepare applications for graduate and professional schools. Scholars will experience what it is like to break new ground and investigate new areas in the sciences that underlie and support biomedical research. To preclude their need to work to support themselves, they will receive a stipend, tuition assistance, and travel funds to attend conferences and/or visit PhD granting institutions. Applicants must have a GPA of 3.2 or higher.

Eligibility and Application

Undergraduates from Cal State Fullerton are eligible. Entry is by application. Top applicants will be interviewed. Only serious and committed students will be selected.

For questions contact Dr. Maria Linder (mlinder@fullerton.edu) or Mary Flores (mflores@fullerton.edu).

Applications for entering the program (which has 4 new positions annually) are available on the Apply page in early Spring.

 

The One-Year HHMI Master's Research Scholars Program

Intensive One-Year Program at California State University, Fullerton

Beings early June 1 of the 1st year - ends May 31 of the next year

Applicants from underrepresented/minority groups and/or those with educational and financial disadvantages are particularly encouraged to apply

For CSUF Master's Students studying biology, biochemistry, and related science/math disciplines

Eligibility:

  • One year completed in CSUF Master's program
  • GPA of 3.2 or higher
  • strong interest in and potential for engaging in a science/math research career at the doctoral level, or teaching career at the Master's or doctoral level

Activities and compensation:

  • Do research with a faculty mentor for 15+ hours/week during the academic year and full time in summer
  • Participate in weekly pro-seminar during the academic year
  • Travel to and participate in scientific conferences ($1,500 support)
  • $11,000 stipend
  • $5,000 scholarship

Eligibility and Application

Master's students from Cal State Fullerton are eligible. Entry is by application. Top applicants will be interviewed. Only serious and committed students will be selected.

For questions contact Dr. Maria Linder (mlinder@fullerton.edu) or Mary Flores (mflores@fullerton.edu).

Applications for entering the program (which has 1 new position annually) are available on the Apply page in early Spring.