Temple Times Online Edition
    OCTOBER 27, 2005
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MIRT grant winners research around the world

Photo by Daisuke Yabe
Juron Foreman did behavioral studies on transgenic mice in Kyoto, Japan, as a participant in the federal Minority International Research Training program. Six Temple undergraduates fanned out to three continents this summer to do research in the world’s leading laboratories and hospitals as part of the program.

Six Temple undergraduates fanned out to three continents this summer to do research in the world’s leading laboratories and hospitals as participants in the federal Minority International Research Training program.

Rasheed Khan studied dengue fever at the University of Oxford in England. Nicole Clyne and Lillian Baker traveled to Ghana to help doctors treat and research sickle cell disease. Juron Foreman did behavioral studies on transgenic mice in Kyoto, Japan. Ludmilar Mesidor worked in a Paris immunology lab, and Christopher Lyons, now graduated, joined Khan at Oxford.

At the end of their 10-week rotations, Temple’s MIRT grant winners returned to campus energized to pursue careers in the medical field and dedicate their knowledge and time to problems of international health.

“MIRT confirmed for me that I want to be a doctor,” said Clyne, a junior biology major from St. Lucia who has long dreamed of being a pediatrician. “But it also motivated me to help revolutionize international health procedures and use my medical knowledge to help out poorer or developing countries.”

Clyne and Baker are now forming a campus group to promote awareness of sickle cell disease, a common hereditary illness in west and central Africa, and raise money for further research in Ghana (see below).

For Khan, a psychology and pre-med major, a summer spent cloning and screening viruses at Oxford — his first chance at research outside the classroom — meant much more than acquiring new skills.

“Working in the lab at Oxford was an awakening for me,” Khan said. “I realized that, even though I’m still an undergraduate and want to get my medical degree, it’s not too early to be doing research and, at the same time, helping out those in need. There’s so much we can be doing now, before we get our degrees.”

Khan said he now volunteers with the homeless, plans to learn CPR and wants to help Clyne and Baker raise money for Ghana.

“I want to put my passion — helping people — into practice,” Khan said. “Being exposed to different nationalities and opinions, I learned that Americans are stuck in their boxes, especially people of my generation. We don’t realize that we can have a tremendous impact on the world rather than wasting our college years in front of MTV or video games.”

Like the others, Foreman, a senior psychology major, credits the MIRT program as an impetus for personal, cultural and academic growth.

“In Japan, I really dialed into the work there right away because they work so hard, even on weekends,” Foreman said. “At first I resisted, but then I became a Saturday regular at the lab and would even come in on Sundays. I got to do tests that I’ve only read about in books.”

Foreman worked with a cutting-edge intelli-cage prototype, a device that uses computers to continually monitor laboratory mice. The lab’s findings could give researchers insight into what causes the onset of certain psychological disorders in humans.

“MIRT changed me by making me sharper academically,” Foreman said. “They’re much more stringent in Japan, so I got disciplined into doing quality research.”

Just as important for Foreman, a lifelong Philadelphian who is the first in his family to attend college, was the opportunity to immerse himself in an unknown culture.

“Most people don’t even get out of Philadelphia their whole lives, so it made me realize that there is research going on across the world that is viable,” Foreman said.

Foreman and his peers’ transformative experiences meet the aims of MIRT, which uses funding from the Fogarty International Center and the National Institutes of Health to encourage minority students to pursue careers in medicine.

The University of Pennsylvania, which administers the MIRT funds, opened the program to students from Temple, Cheyney University and Lincoln University last year. Temple students qualified for six of the 10 available grants, according to Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies Peter Jones.

Jones hopes the success of Temple’s MIRT participants inspires other undergraduates to undertake research projects.

“Our students’ experiences with MIRT prove that we have students capable of doing this level of work as undergraduates, that they can handle a challenge like this,” Jones said. “To go to Ghana for three months and work on a research project, that’s not an easy thing to do. It really says something about the quality of students and faculty at Temple, and we won’t rest as we look for more opportunities like this for our students.”

- By Ted Boscia

Students return with commitment to end Ghana plight
In addition to enhancing their research skills and boosting their awareness of world culture, Nicole Clyne and Lillian Baker left Ghana committed to help the country better restrain sickle cell disease, which is prevalent through west and central Africa.
“Doing research in another country, especially a developing country like Ghana, opens your eyes to international health issues,” Baker said. “Before this summer, I had no clue that sickle cell disease is such a huge problem in Ghana.”
The two are now forming a campus group, Temple Students Association for Sickle Cell Awareness. They plan to collaborate with the Sickle Cell Association of Philadelphia to raise money for projects in Ghana and Philadelphia and conduct information seminars for the disease at Temple and other city campuses.
Clyne and Baker also have maintained their ties with doctors they met in Ghana from the Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center at the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania, which has deployed researchers and physicians to the country for more than a decade.
“Ghana is a country with a lot of potential, what you could call one of the better-off developing countries,” Clyne said. “But a lot of its problems come from a lack of resources, vision and initiative. My dream come true would be to help countries like Ghana with the knowledge I have now and when I become a doctor.”
Clyne said the money that their organization raises could be used for treatments, scholarships for children with the disease, health education and conferences and other purposes. Those who would like to join the group or help with fund raising can contact Clyne at lanmc@temple.edu.

- Ted Boscia