Scholarship Winners Spend Summer in the Lab
Two Haverford students, Yusup Shin '11 and Adolfo Cuesta '10, are pursuing pioneering externships through prestigious scholarships from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).
Shin, a biology major with a biochemistry concentration and a philosophy minor, is one of 34 students in the U.S. to receive an HHMI International Fellowship, a first for Haverford. He is researching malaria infection with Dr. Robert MÃ©nard, who is chief of laboratory at the Institut Pasteur in Paris.“Institut Pasteur hosts many pioneering scientists from around the world,” says Shin.“I feel extremely privileged to show the world what we Haverfordians are about, but I also feel a responsibility to perform well in the lab in order to open this rare opportunity to more Haverford students in the future.”
Working at the Institut Pasteur, an international hub for biomedical research in Europe, has also granted Shin a rare opportunity as an undergraduate: the independence needed to design his own questions.“Most labs simply ask undergraduates to perform protocols while working under a Ph.D. student,” Shin says.“However, this fellowship has granted me the freedom to take ownership of my project, which is very exciting and challenging at the same time.”
Shin's project focuses on the pre-erythrocytic phase of malaria, the interim period between the time a mosquito injects the parasite into the host and when the parasite actually infects red blood cells. MÃ©nard's lab studies the interactions between parasite and host that occur during this initial stage to gain a functional understanding of parasite biology. So far, Shin has designed an imaging project that uses transgenic parasites to visualize the interplay of organelles that are essential for parasite entry into host cells. He has also helped document novel observations of parasite behavior using state-of-the-art technologies.
Cuesta is Haverford's first HHMI Exceptional Research Opportunities Program (EXROP) Scholar. The program encourages students from economically disadvantaged or minority backgrounds to pursue careers in academic science by placing them in labs with prominent scientists. A biology major with a minor in physics and a concentration in biochemistry, Cuesta is studying meiosis, a process by which cells divide and receive a single copy of each chromosome, at Dr. Scott Keeney's world-renowned lab at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
Cuesta is helping to clarify the molecular components involved in meiotic recombination, the point in meiosis during which genetic information is exchanged between chromosomes.“The tools I've picked up here, from Haverford, through coursework and lab work, will be essential to whatever I do in graduate school,” says Cuesta, who plans on continuing with molecular and cellular biology.
Their HHMI scholarships have only fueled these students' passion for science and research even further. As Cuesta sums up,“[My scholarship] has given me the opportunity to be in a laboratory that does cutting-edge research and learn how a scientist at this level really thinks. I can't think of a better way to be spending my summer.”
â€”Nicole Gervasio BMC â€˜10