LEAH Knox Scholar
Summer ● 2020
The whole summer experience soared above my expectations for virtual programming. One of my favorite moments was when we created homemade gel electrophoresis. My awesome TA would assist us through Zoom while we melted our agarose gels and poured the liquid onto the mold. I’ve learned more about biology in the five weeks of LEAH than I did in a whole year of biology class. The lab experience was amazing, and the community of peers gained is priceless.
Since starting MSRP, I’ve noticed changes in myself. The more I get into research, even remote research, the more I realize it’s what I want to do. Although we haven’t been able to meet in person, I’ve gotten to know the cohort really well and the faculty have been extremely interactive. I’m studying proteins in the lab of Eliezer Calo, who — like me — grew up in Puerto Rico and completed MSRP. Working with proteins is new to me, but I’ve learned a lot through this program, and it’s given me career-changing opportunities.
Field Trip ● 2015-2019
My students always have an incredible time on the field trips. Some say that going to MIT was the moment they realized that they wanted to go into a career in science. It’s an amazing feeling to provide a student with that ‘aha’ moment that helps them figure out what they want to do in life. The field trips are also a great way for the students to reflect on past learning and current classroom topics. We were covering biotechnology during this year’s trip, and referenced the MIT grad student’s talk multiple times while reviewing the differences between animal and bacterial gene expression back in class.
In St. Lucia, we value working hard and treating people equally. I had to leave my home on this Caribbean island for college, but I carried these values with me, and I was thrilled to find people who share my mindset at MIT. I met many amazing friends and mentors during the 10-week MSRP-Bio program. Whether we were discussing science, hanging out on Friday night, or hiking through the mountains, I felt at home, and the relationships I formed will last long beyond the end of the summer.
University of Arizona ’20 ● Post-MSRP: Research Support Associate, MIT Biology
Everyone I met during MSRP was so creative, but also so humble. The students and faculty were all excited to discuss ideas, and also willing to admit when the conversation reached the limits of their knowledge. I learned a ton at MIT, both about protein biochemistry and about scientific career paths. Balancing my life as a Navajo with my love of science is extremely important to me, and this summer helped me realize that a career in policy could combine my passions for research and native affairs.
Summer Workshop ● 2019
I have always been interested in the brain and nervous system, and so I was looking to learn more about the current research and how I can apply it to the way my students learn. Through this workshop, I was exposed to some great laboratory exercises that I can easily integrate into my instruction. It also gave me insight into how to tweak the labs I currently do, and make them more engaging for my students. I am excited to return back to my school and share some of the experiences that I learned. I am planning to meet with colleagues in my department to talk to them about how we can work these activities into our curriculum.
Summer Workshop ● 2019
The neuroscience workshop provided an interesting array of topics related to the field, and it was valuable to meet and work with teachers from different districts and disciplines. I intend to use what I learned back at my own school, introducing my colleagues to these ideas and helping them to integrate the activities I learned. I also intend to see if other teachers are interested in leading a field trip to the MRI facility.
Daniela Aguilar Garcia
Attendee ’19 ● Post-QMW: Junior Developer, Two Fish Creative
The new skills I gained in this workshop are invaluable. It showed me how computer science could be helpful, and in some cases absolutely necessary, to validate and facilitate many different fields of research in biology. Specifically, I learned how to use MATLAB, which complements my other programming languages and will help me in lab. My favorite part of the workshop was getting to meet the amazing faculty at MIT, and having one-on-one conversations with them. It was a truly memorable experience.
UMass Amherst ’19 ● Post-MSRP: PhD student, UCSF Tetrad Program
During my time at MSRP, every member of my lab offered advice about experiments and guidance for graduate school. To get such robust and targeted feedback from experts in your field — who are also invested in you and care about you — has been incredibly empowering. You leave this program having forged new connections with rising scientists, and with a new perspective on how diverse your scientific trajectory can be. To say I am grateful for the opportunity would be to undersell it; this program has, without a doubt, made a significant impact on my path as a young scientist.
University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez ’19 ● Post-MSRP: PhD student, University of Michigan
I had two main expectations about MIT before I got here. The first was that no one would give me the time of day and they’d be hard to talk to. Boy, was I wrong — the faculty are really accessible and engage you as a potential researcher. The other expectation was that everyone here would be hardworking, regardless of their field of study. And I was very pleased to find that’s the case. I have not met one person who would not go the extra mile to do their job correctly.
The workshop allowed me to network with MIT professors and students; I got advice about how to apply to MIT, listened to talks, and was introduced to the scientific literature. I also got a basic introduction to programming and realized how useful it is in biological research. Now, as a grad student in the Littleton lab, I use fruit flies to study changes in connections in motor neurons due to neuronal activity — research which requires programming for image analysis.
Asmita Panthi, MSRP ’17
South Carolina State University ’19 ● Post-MSRP: Research Intern, Novartis
I was born and raised in Nepal, one of the least developed countries in the world. Scientific discoveries seemed like miracles happening somewhere I could hardly imagine. Although I helped many people as a health professional in Nepal, I wanted to take part in the discovery process. As part of the MSRP-Bio summer program, I had an unprecedented opportunity to get familiar with various aspects of scientific research and have come to realize that the challenges, and possibilities, are much more than I imagined.
Instructor ’17 ● Post-QMW: Master’s student, University of Oxford
The Quantitative Methods Workshop was an incredible experience. I was able to design and teach a workshop on Python, and test strategies for communicating these ideas in a way that resonates with students from many different fields: computer science, chemistry, biology, etc. One student even emailed me after and said the workshop inspired them to enroll in an introductory programming course. These things make the experience so rewarding, and I look forward to teaching again at the 2018 workshop.
LEAH Knox Scholar
Summer ● 2017
Not only did we have the opportunity to work in MIT’s labs with their equipment and conduct intense experiments, but we also got to work with MIT professors and instructors. My peers and professors were very willing to help and concerned with helping each other, and it was also beneficial to be surrounded by people who loved science. My favorite experiment was the sporulation assay, because I was able to develop the procedure on my own and see great results.
Attendee ’16 ● Post-QMW: Research Assistant, Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine
The workshop was an incredible experience. I was able to meet and network with amazingly bright and motivated students, and the intense, fast paced program ensured we all made the most of our time while fostering teamwork. I was exposed to the programming languages used in MatLab, ImageJ, and Python. During a fellowship that same year, I used my newfound skills to write a program and analyze dozens of z-stacks efficiently — allowing my team to draw important conclusions from the work I had been doing.
Bruna Lima, MSRP ’17
UMass Boston ’18 ● Post-MSRP: Research Assistant, Whitehead Institute
I was born in Cape Verde, and I have been in the US for about five years. Coming from a country where science is not done or supported very much, the opportunity to spend a summer doing research at MIT has been a critically important step in my career, and has made me more sure that I want a career in scientific research.
Summer Workshop ● 2008, 2009, 2015
I’ve attended the workshops out of personal interest, and to network with other teachers. I’ve gained the ability to share snippets of information and experiences with my students. This adds both richness and substance to my teaching practices, and connects students with the real-world implications of information “in the textbook.” Very few of the labs have been immediately applicable to my practice, but having done them enables me to do a better job designing investigations for my students.
Samuel Nkrumah Boampong, MSRP ’17
Fisk University ’18 ● Post-MSRP: PhD student, University of Missouri
I came to the U.S. from Ghana to experience a rich undergraduate education and research. At the MSRP program, I learned so much from fellow summer students and even the people I met on my way to lab. I really love the way the infinite corridor comes to life with all different kinds of people, some immersed in scientific work and others just appreciating the beauty of it. People with different backgrounds and personalities are brought together by their scientific pursuits to answer fundamental and important questions.
Yamilex Acevedo-Sánchez, MSRP ’17
University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez ’18 ● Post-MSRP: PhD student, MIT Biology
I am the first in my family to pursue a graduate education, and the second to attend a university, after my mom. Every time an experiment fails, I remember the tenacity and determination my mom had through her college years while raising my brother and me. I entered college with the sole purpose of getting into medical school, but fell in love with molecular and cellular biology. Ultimately, I want to transmit my passion to others and help open doors for those who are underrepresented and disadvantaged.
Lorraine De Jesús-Kim
Attendee ’14, ’15 ● Post-QMW: PhD student, MIT Biology
The workshop introduced me to multiple quantitative tools and programs. I had never used these tools before, and I didn’t know they could be applied so extensively across so many areas of biology. By explaining how they use these programs in their own research, the instructors gave me a concrete idea about how to analyze my own scientific results, and I later applied to grad school at MIT. I currently study protein-protein interactions using MATLAB — thanks to the workshop, this program is no longer intimidating!
Mónica Quiñones Frías
Attendee ’14 ● Post-QMW: PhD student, MIT Biology
I didn’t have any computational biology experience before the workshop, which allowed me to explore different aspects of the field in a matter of days. I learned MATLAB, and I also learned to use ImageJ to analyze the intensity of different fluorescent proteins in an image. I continue to use these same techniques today to analyze the images I take with confocal microscopes as part of my research in the Littleton lab.
Mentewab Ayalew, PhD
Associate Professor & Vice Chair, Biology ● Spelman College
I encourage my students to attend the workshops, and have even attended myself. Students learn to solve biological problems using quantitative and computational approaches, and many can’t wait to take additional computer science courses after they return. They are exposed to new concepts, ideas, and ongoing research at MIT that challenge them to integrate quantitative thinking into their work. They also receive formal and informal advice about applying to graduate school.
Field Trip ● 2015, 2017
I’ve taken many of my students on field trips to MIT biology over the years. We’ve done career exploration days, lectures, and more; these programs are among the best, and we’ve used some aspects of what we’ve observed as a launch point for our STEM Academy. My students absolutely love coming to MIT — they’re hardworking kids with varied backgrounds, and after visiting they are often inspired to apply to MIT for college.
Summer Workshop ● 2007, 2008, 2014, 2016
The workshop curriculum is incredibly enriching and reflects the latest research. It is intellectually and professionally stimulating to be surrounded by like-minded, passionate peers. I’ve woven workshop content throughout my classes, using prepared slides to demonstrate morphogenesis in class, and the StarGenetics program to reinforce Mendelian genetics. It is important for my students to see that despite my advancing age, I consider myself — above all — a learner, and that I am deeply interested in science.
LEAH Knox Scholar
Summer ● 2017
I loved the experience of meeting the scholars and professors from MIT, as well as the environment and the workplace. Whenever we had lunches with the professors or students from MIT, we also had the opportunity to ask a lot of questions, which was a highlight. The instructors were incredibly knowledgeable and helpful whenever I needed help with anything. I really enjoyed the UV assays although I had to do it a dozen times. I feel like each time we did it, we got better.
Field Trip ● 2010-2017
The field trips have always been a great opportunity for my students to see aspects of biology that they would not normally see in their own classroom — to see science ‘in action.’ Most notably, they’ve had the chance to listen to lectures about the research going on at MIT, and the opportunity to talk to grad students and scientists about what they do on a daily basis. My students always remember and are inspired by their trips to MIT.
Talia Guardia, MSRP ’13
Barry University ’14 ● Post-MSRP: MD-PhD student, UMD School of Medicine
My favorite part of MSRP was working in the Jacks lab. I learned to think like a scientist, and, although I saw how challenging research can be when an experiment fails, the experience heightened my passion for cancer research. I enjoyed being in the lab and thinking about scientific questions that I wanted to help answer. Many of my peers from MSRP are still very close friends, and I turn to them to discuss research questions and future career goals.
University of Maryland Baltimore County ’14 ● Post-MSRP: MD-PhD student, Harvard/MIT
MSRP taught me that science is best done in collaboration. I was excited to come in each day to learn from my lab mates, develop my own ideas, and find answers to the questions that kept us up at night. I worked on mammary gland biology and had a blast; it is so cool that organs like the mammary glands go through repeated cycles of growth and decay, and that I was able to grow one in a dish. MSRP truly taught me that few things can replace genuine excitement and hard work.
Flona Redway, PhD
Biology Instructor, RISE Program Director ● Barry University
I encourage my students to attend the workshop so they can develop computational thinking skills and learn quantitative approaches. After just seven days, they are more interested in computer science and biotechnology, have a working knowledge of PYTHON and MATLAB, and take a more critical approach to their investigations. They return with a new level of excitement about research and the possibilities of computational approaches. In fact, we are now proposing a course in computational and quantitative biology.
Barry University ’17 ● Post-MSRP: PhD student, MIT Biology
I am originally from Haiti and moved to Florida in 2008. My first experience at MIT was in January 2015 when I attended the MIT Quantitative Workshop for one week, and learned about the MRSP summer program. It was one of the best experiences of my life. The MIT community was very welcoming and nurturing (and prestigious!), which is why I decided to return for two more summers as an HHMI fellow. I am very grateful for the opportunities that the MSRP program offered.
LEAH Knox Scholar
Summer ● 2020
The LEAH Knox program was a stepping stone to my future career as a neurobiologist, and became one of my most cherished memories. I had a beyond amazing time learning with fellow peers, primarily due to the instructors who came up with work-arounds and virtual labs that flowed fantastically. I was able to work with lab equipment such as micropipettes, and was even able to conduct gel electrophoresis — all while at the home over Zoom!
Elizabeth “Lizzie” Gorodetsky, MSRP ’17
CUNY Hunter College ’18 ● Post-MSRP: MD-PhD student, NYU
As a first generation American and a child of Ukrainian refugees, I feel honored to have had the chance to come to MIT this summer as well as conduct research in a field I hope to pursue in the future. I worked in Matthew Vander Heiden’s lab studying the regulation of biochemical pathways related to cancer cell proliferation. I will be the first physician and scientist in my family, and am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to participate in MSRP.
San Diego State University ’15 ● Post-MSRP: PhD student, MIT Biology
MSRP introduced me to a lot of people who shared my background and aspirations. Sharing both successes and challenges with these like-minded individuals made the whole summer experience better than I could have imagined. To this day, I still go to them for advice. Being able to conduct science in this fast-paced environment while having fun also gave me more confidence in my own abilities. MSRP also exposed me to the field of chromatin biology for the first time — a field I am now pursuing as a grad student studying mammalian gene expression.
Yisi Lu, MSRP ’11
Smith College ’12 ● Post-MSRP: PhD candidate, Yale University
MSRP introduced me to cutting-edge science. Afterwards, I was determined to pursue a higher education in biology and inspired to become a scientist. Since then, I have become even more fascinated by different aspects of science. My MSRP projects related to cancer biology and spurred my passion for immunology, which later helped me land a research assistant position at MIT. One amazing experience led to another, and now I am doing a PhD in immunology.
LEAH Knox Scholar
Summer ● 2017
My favorite experiment of the summer was when we went to the Charles River and collected a bottle of water from the river, and then poured the water on different gels and cultivated bacteria. The professors at MIT are nice and know a lot, and my peers were friendly and helpful. The people, food, and the labs in the LEAH Knox Scholars program are the best!
Sheena Vasquez, MSRP ’14, ’15, ’16
University of Georgia ’17 ● Post-MIT: PhD student, MIT Biology
MSRP taught me to think critically about science. I participated in weekly lunches and dinners with renowned faculty who exposed me to many different areas of research I wouldn’t have considered pursuing. I felt challenged to learn new ways to solve problems and present my projects. In addition, I enjoyed bonding with people from all over the world through our love for science. MSRP gave me the courage to apply to graduate school and introduced me to a place I can comfortably call home for the next 5+ years.
Kristin Fitzpatrick, MSRP ’14
Southern Oregon University ’15 ● Post-MSRP: PhD student, University of Washington
MSRP opened many doors for my career — it was essentially a mini-graduate school experience, complete with seminars, mentorship, and technical training. It was also the first time I felt included in a rigorous and supportive research community. I felt seen, valued, and respected. MIT still feels like an intellectual home for me, and it will always have a place in my heart. I keep in touch with my cohort, and we continue to share brain food, like journal articles and other snippets. MIT fam for life!
Favour Akinjiyan, MSRP ’14, ’15
New York Institute of Technology ’16 ● Post-MSRP: MD-PhD student, Washington University in St. Louis
My MSRP experiences taught me that science is not always linear and experiments don’t always give binary results, so perseverance is key. My mentors Tania Baker and Stephane Calmat introduced me to the fascinating topic of protein degradation, which I still study, albeit in a cellular context. In 2014, I presented my findings at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students. My mentors continue to advise me on my career, and I seek a similar collaborative atmosphere in other settings.
Ana M. Caldeira
Summer Workshop ● 1998-2017
The workshops helped me become a better, more knowledgeable teacher — I could cite current research and was aware of recent discoveries. During the workshops, I performed labs using state-of-the-art equipment, collaborated with other teachers, and developed hands-on activities to use in my classroom. I have access to curricula developed by other workshop participants online, as well as lectures by experts, and have shared many of the curricula with my colleagues.
Nadja M. Maldonado Luna
Attendee ’19 ● University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez ’21
I was already familiar with MATLAB as it applies to engineers, and during the workshop I learned that this programming tool can also be used to analyze and solve problems in biology. I left with valuable skills that I will use in my research, which will make my data analysis much easier and more organized. I also enjoyed networking with faculty. They come from interdisciplinary backgrounds, and talking to them helped me gain a sense of confidence and belonging, reaffirming my academic aspirations and showing me that they’re possible.
Valerie Ann Pérez Medina
Attendee ’20 ● University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez ’22
I learned programming languages like MATLAB that have helped me in classes and allowed me to analyze data in a project I recently started. Tools like this will help me become a better engineer, scientist, and researcher. I treasured meeting grad students, undergraduates, and faculty from different backgrounds and sharing stories about overcoming obstacles. These experiences taught me that, with perseverance, I can achieve my goals.
I’ve known I was interested in cancer research for a long time, but working at MIT has shown me that computational tools are key to understanding the disease. I can see myself using the programming languages I learned during MSRP-Bio on my own projects in the future. The experience exposed me to new areas of research, and gave me knowledge that I can take with me wherever I go. MSRP-Bio is designed to help you get the most out of the summer, and it really caters to your every need and provides a strong support system.
Attendee ’21 ● Florida International University ’22
This was an incredible experience. The faculty and graduate students I met were from very different backgrounds, but they formed a community of people who deeply enjoy research. I had never considered how computer science related to biology, but the workshop made it evident that tools like MATLAB can be incredibly useful. I will apply what I learned to my own research to analyze data more efficiently. I also feel more confident in exploring other computational and quantitative methods, and applying them to my work.
Attendee ’21 ● University of Maryland, Baltimore County ’22
Although I did not have any coding experience before the workshop, I did not feel overwhelmed. The lecturers and teaching assistants were patient and helped me understand programming languages like MATLAB. I also enjoyed interacting with the other participants and hearing about their interests in science. The skills I learned during the workshop will help me accurately identify patterns in my own results and communicate my findings to others in the future.