Grand Valley senior takes part in Harvard stem cell program

Craig Russo
Craig Russo
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Grand Valley senior Craig Russo was just one of 44 undergraduate students from across the country to take part in the highly competitive Harvard Stem Cell Institute Internship Program over the summer of 2013.

Russo spent 10 weeks from June through August at the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Regenerative Medicine where he conducted research on the neural mechanisms underlying psychiatric illnesses. Russo’s summer project was to explore the effect of an antidepressant, Prozac, on synaptic remodeling and connectivity in the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with memory, of middle-aged mice.

“Being able to conduct research at a Harvard Stem Cell Institute lab in the Center for Regenerative Medicine at Mass General Hospital, and work every day with some of the brightest minds in the field was inspiring as an aspiring researcher,” Russo said.  

Over the course of the program, interns participated in stem cell seminar series, career pathways presentations, and a weekly stem cell companion course. They presented their summer research findings, both orally and in poster format, at an end-of-program symposium.

Russo said the available resources and the people he worked with made the summer research experience worthwhile.

“Whether the technological resources or the human contacts with leading researchers and physicians, resources available through this program are unmatched,” Russo said. “I also made lasting friendships that will be invaluable down the road.”

The HSCI program is just one of many available summer internship programs that students can apply to with guidance from the Frederik Meijer Office of Fellowships. Russo said the Office of Fellowships staff helped him with his application and his personal statement, which helped him fully describe his love and interest for the research to the admissions panel.

Generally, summer internship program application deadlines begin in late January and run through mid-March. Research opportunities with upcoming deadlines include internship programs such as the OURS Student Summer Scholars Program (www.gvsu.edu/ours/s3), AMGEN, NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates, NIH Summer Internship Program, Perrigo, Van Andel Research Institute, and more. 

Some Grand Valley students do apply and subsequently participate in these off-site summer research opportunity programs that hone their research and critical thinking skills, and provide them with lab experience on campuses where they might choose to pursue graduate study. Frederik Meijer Office of Fellowships director Amanda Cuevas said her office can provide application assistance to students applying for competitive undergraduate summer research programs on an as-needed basis. 

Although the Frederik Meijer Office of Fellowships can assist students, Cuevas said students should also connect with resources on campus including the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship, the CLAS Academic Advising Center Pre-Professional Advisors, and faculty or research advisors to explore both on-campus and off-campus research activities and to give input on applications for these opportunities.

For more information on competitive summer research programs, contact the Frederik Meijer Office of Fellowships at (616) 331-2699 to make an appointment or visit gvsu.edu/fellowships.