For most college undergrads, jobs in a cafeteria or coffee shop are the norm. But for a select group of students, there is an opportunity to work on real medical research projects thanks to the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) and the Center for Health Equity (CHE) Undergraduate Research Program (URP).
John Tarnowski, a senior majoring in biochemistry in the College of Biological Sciences, is currently participating in URP and has seen the benefits of such a program.
“This program has allowed me to gain exposure to research programs here at the University of Minnesota and see how the research process really works,” said Tarnowski. “I’ve been able to get involved and understand how all the components fit together. I’ve learned that the research process really is a team effort.”
Under the guidance of Julie Ross, Ph.D., professor and director of the Division of Pediatric Epidemiology & Clinical Research in the Department of Pediatrics, Tarnowski is working on a research project studying Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS), a disease that affects bone marrow and blood. This, as you may recall, is the same disease Robin Roberts of ABC News’ “Good Morning America” was diagnosed with and recently had undergone bone marrow transplant surgery to treat her MDS.
Over the next five years, Ross, Tarnowski and their team of more than 25 people including faculty, post-doctorates, lab coordinators, and doctors, will look to better understand the history, biology and epidemiology of MDS. The study will also examine how family history of certain cancers and blood disorders play a role in the development of MDS.
Ross knows that the impact this mentor program has beyond the MDS project can be instrumental.
“As a mentor to students like John, I have a great opportunity and responsibility to teach and mold the next generation of researchers. I strongly believe that this program serves the University’s mission quite well,” said Ross. “I enjoy working with undergraduate students and I think they gain a better understanding of the complexity of research.”
The URP is accepting applications until noon Tuesday, January 29, 2013. For more information on the program visit the URP site.
For anyone wondering about whether to get involved with the URP, Tarnowski has this advice, “Just do it! It’s a great way to get oriented and figure what research is all about.”