Gabriel Rangel - As a member of the HHMI EXROP I was able to work with Dr. Chris Plowe at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD, while living on the Johns Hopkins University Homewood Campus and being a part of the JHU Summer Internship Program. My research project focused on determining what effects a newly developed malaria vaccine had on the malaria parasite genome. In addition to lab work in Baltimore, I was able to travel to Bandiagara, Mali in West Africa to get involved in a small research project at the vaccine field testing site! Overall, this summer experience was more beneficial than I could ever have imagined. Not only was I able to advance my scientific skills and techniques, but I was also able to develop in a personal sense. I was able to begin relationships with leaders in the field, get to know people directly affected by the disease, and develop lasting friendships with peers who were involved in the same programs. I went into the program not knowing what I was going to do in the future, and I came out realizing that a career focused on researching neglected tropical diseases is exactly what I want! I am more grateful for this experience than I will ever be able to express!
Ariel Garcia - This summer I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in the Exceptional Research Opportunities Program (EXROP), which is sponsored by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). For this program, I was placed in Dr. Elizabeth Engle’s lab at Harvard University where I learned a lot about neuroscience and research in general. Dr. Engle’s lab was focused on understanding how certain forms of human strabismus result from abnormal ocular cranial nerve development, such that the nerves do not reach appropriate eye muscle targets, causing stereotyped defects in eye movement. The purpose of my research project was to gain an understanding of the normal developmental growth and innervation of ocular cranial nerves III, IV, and VI from their brainstem nuclei to the extraocular muscles in wild type mice in order to form a database from which to compare innervation patterns of normal and mutant mouse models. In the future, it is hoped that data from my summer project and similar experiments will not only contribute to the general knowledge of axon growth and guidance of the ocular cranial nerves, but also to corrective procedures that may be performed on humans suffering from eye movement disorders.
Besides doing research, I enjoyed attending seminars at Harvard and also seminars hosted by the Children’s Hospital, Boston. There were eleven other EXROP students that were placed at my location, and we did a lot of activities together throughout our stay. Among many other activities, we organized trips to the ocean, museums, the aquarium, and a Boston Pops Concert. Some of us purchased short-term memberships at Boston Sports Club, went to a Red Sox game at Fenway Park, and went kayaking along the Charles River. Overall, I had a fantastic summer and I learned a lot about research and neuroscience. I made so many new friends through my program, on the Harvard Campus, in my lab, and Boston in general. This has truly been an invaluable experience that will help shape my future endeavors.