Undergrads get hands-on with biomedical research

BAR HARBOR — Thirty-two summer fellows participated in the MDI Biological Laboratory’s 2017 summer fellowship program for undergraduates, including 24 from Maine colleges and universities.

The summer fellowship program provides undergraduates with hands-on research training in an advanced laboratory environment. On-campus co-curricular and residential life programs extend the impact of the programs, helping students develop professional skills and fostering connections within the research community. Each student works closely with a faculty mentor and other researchers on a specific research project in the biomedical field.

“The summer fellowship experience gives students a leg up in their careers,” said Jane E. Disney, director of education. “Not only do they gain valuable laboratory skills, they also get a sense of what working in a research laboratory is like and forge connections with faculty members and fellow students that will be maintained throughout their careers. In addition, these programs create the skilled workforce required to support the science and tech sectors of the economy.”

Twenty of the summer fellows were supported by Maine INBRE, a network of 13 Maine educational and research institutions led by the MDI Biological Laboratory. The aim of Maine INBRE, funded through the National Institutes of Health, is to create a biomedical training and research ecosystem for Maine to catalyze innovation and drive the creation of 21st-century jobs for Maine students. The MDI Biological Laboratory has trained more than 2,100 students since the program’s inception in 2001.

“My experience as a summer research fellow at the MDI Biological Laboratory has given me confidence that research is the right choice for me,” said Samantha White, 31, a student at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland who plans to pursue a career in biomedical research. “This is something I could see myself doing for a long time and finding meaning in it.”

The Maine INBRE fellows worked at the MDI Biological Laboratory and on the campuses of INBRE partners statewide, including Bates College in Lewiston, Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Colby College in Waterville, The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor and the University of Maine in Orono. One student worked at Eastern Maine Medical Center Cancer Care at the Lafayette Family Cancer Center in Brewer.

Ten summer fellows, including six who come from or are studying in Maine, were funded through the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. All the REU summer fellows worked at the MDI Biological Laboratory.

MDI Biological Laboratory scientists are pioneering new approaches to regenerative medicine focused on drugs that activate the natural ability to heal, and that slow age-related degenerative changes. This unique approach has identified new drugs with the potential to treat major diseases, demonstrating that regeneration could be as simple as taking a pill. As innovators and entrepreneurs, the laboratory also teaches what it knows. The Maine Center for Biomedical Innovation prepares students for 21st-century careers and equips entrepreneurs with the skills and resources to turn great ideas into successful products. Visit mdibl.org.

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