American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors – Undergraduate Scholarship

The ASCLD’s annual scholarship solicitation is now open and accepting applications.  The annual award is in the amount of $1000 and the  due date (April 15) is quickly approaching.  The application can be found on the ASCLD website. A description of the scholarship can be found here.

Eligibility
Applicants must be a junior or senior in a baccalaureate program or a graduate student (masters or doctorate) at an accredited university who is pursuing a degree in forensic science, forensic chemistry, a physical or natural science.  Applicants from FEPAC accredited programs will be given additional consideration.  High school students or college/university students in their freshman or sophomore years will not be eligible for application.  As the scholarship program was created to provide opportunity to students intending to enter the forensic field, scholarships will not be granted to current forensic science laboratory employees pursing graduate degrees.

Selection criteria
Award recipients will be selected on the basis of:

  • Overall scholastic record
  • Scholastic record in forensic science coursework
  • Motivation or commitment to a forensic science career
  • Personal statement
  • Faculty/adviser recommendation

Application documentation

  • Application form
  • Transcripts
  • Personal statement of applicant
  • Recommendation of faculty member or lab director with knowledge of the applicant

Good Luck!

PRISM students accepted to multiple programs this summer and next year

As of fall 2014, 51 PRISM alumni reported gaining admission to graduate and professional programs since 2006. This year four of our seniors join this group as they enter graduate and medical school programs:

 

Williams, ShawnShawn Williams (Mentor: Dr. Domashevskiy):

Molecular Biology, Cell Biology & Biochemistry PhD Program, Brown University

 

 

image1Tanya Napolitano (Mentors: Drs. Proni & Petraco):

College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences – Toxicology PhD Program, St. John’s University

 

 

Reinfeld, SamSamuel Reinfeld (Mentor: Dr. Domashevskiy):

Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine Program (DO), NY College of Osteopathic Medicine

 

 

P1000642Yessenia Lopez  (Mentor: Dr. Cheng):

NIH Funded Post Baccalaureate Research Preparation Program (PREP), Albert Einstein College of Medicine

 

In addition, six PRISM juniors will be attending prestigious summer research programs with various universities and institutes this summer:

 

Fernandez, PorfirioPorfirio Fernandez (Mentor: Dr. Rauceo):

Leadership Alliance/Howard Hughes Medical Institute Summer Undergraduate Research Program, University of Miami

 

 

PROANO_DAYSI croppedDaysi Proano (Mentor: Dr. Svoronos – QCC):

Undergraduate Summer Research in Molecular Biophysics, Princeton University

 

 

Seo, JiwonJiwon Seo (Mentor: Dr. Cheng):

Summer Research Opportunities at Harvard (SROH) Program, Harvard University

 

 

Shillingford, Shanelle croppedShanelle Shillingford (Mentor: Dr. Proni):

2015 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows (SURF) Program, The Scripps Research Institute (California campus)

 

 

Williams, Desiree croppedDesiree Williams (Mentor: Dr. Li):

Summer Undergraduate Research Program, City University of New York

 

 

Duran, Lissette.croppedLisset Duran (Mentor: Dr. Lissette Delgado Cruzata):

Morocco Summer Research Program, National Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants

 

 

Good luck on your endeavors! We are very proud that you are all part of our PRISM family!

12 PRISM students attend ABRCMS ’14 in San Antonio, TX

GroupThe 14th Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) was held in San Antonio, Texas earlier this month (November 12-15). Twelve PRISM students attended, presenting posters about their scientific research at John Jay. Three of these students (Yessenia Lopez, Porfirio Fernandez, and Jiwon Seo) received Travel Awards ABRCMSfrom the conference to defray the costs of their travels. Dr. Jason Rauceo and Dr. Garry Brown from the Science Department accompanied the students, as well as PRISM coordinator Dr. Edgardo Sanabria-Valentin.

ABRCMS is one of the largest undergraduate research conferences in the United States, with more than 1,700 students presenting their research in about twelve fields in biomedical sciences. Our students presented their work in diverse projects (chemistry, toxicology, cellular and molecular biology, environmental sciences, and microbiology), showcasing the diversity of scientific research being performed at John Jay.Stephania

To prepare for their presentation, PRISM organized “ABRCMS Boot Camp” the week before departing for Texas. Students got to practice their presentation skills in daily sessions helped by faculty members of the Science Department and the PRISM staff. They also got to learn about networking and perfected their “elevator pitch.” At the conference they attended sessions discussing the importance of science communication, how to prepare an application to graduate programs, the different types of graduate programs, and the importance of networking and other professional development events.

An account by Richard Khusial, senior Forensic Science major:

Continue reading

Nuclear Forensics Graduate Fellowship Program

This fellowship program encourages students to seek advanced education in technical areas related to nuclear forensics and provides incentives for universities to invest in and further develop radiochemistry NTNFlogo_smand other nuclear forensics-related academic programs.  The Nuclear Forensics Graduate Fellowship Program (NFGFP) gives highly motivated students an exceptional opportunity to apply their knowledge to enhance U.S. national security.  As a key component of the broader National Nuclear Forensics Expertise Development Program, the NFGFP enables fellows to gain unique, hands-on experience through laboratory practicums and close interaction with technical and policy experts throughout the nuclear forensics community.

Students with undergraduate degrees in the physical sciences, the life sciences, or engineering are eligible to apply for the NFGFP. Graduate students in these technical disciplines who will have at least two full years of graduate work remaining at the beginning of September 2015 are also eligible. Applicants must be pursuing or planning to pursue doctoral studies in specialties directly relevant to technical nuclear forensics. These specialties include but are not limited to radiochemistry, geochemistry, nuclear physics, nuclear engineering, materials science, and analytical chemistry.  Applicants must be U.S. citizens.

For more information, follow this link.

2014 Graduate & Professional School Fair @ John Jay

The John Jay Career Center, The Pre-Law Institute, and the Pre-Health Careers Advisement Center invite all John Jay students and alumni to attend John Jay’s Graduate & Professional Fair. This year, over 35 graduate programs and 10 medicine/health programs will be attending. Of the graduate programs, over twenty have masters or Ph.D. programs in sciences, from Chemistry to Anthropology and Criminal Justice. For a breakdown of all the graduate programs and the disciplines in science they represent, follow this link (excel file): Graduate Programs. You will find there a list of all the schools, their programs in science or in health, and links to their programs descriptions.

Why should you attend? You can learn about what these programs look for in their candidates and also there is a chance to win a Kaplan GRE or MCAT course. Also, many schools will be offering fee waivers for their applications. Throughout the fair, there will be a program of scheduled talks from various representatives on topics of interest for applicants to grad/law/med schools. For a full program of those talks, follow this link (word doc): Schedule of talks during the Grad Fair.

The fair will take place Wednesday October 15, 2014 in the Gym (4th floor Harren Hall) from 1-4pm.

Tips for Attending the Grad School Fair:

  1. Research the schools and programs (use the link above) represented ahead of time.
  2. Rank the schools according to your preference. Visit the schools you are most interested in first.
  3. Prepare questions to ask representatives ahead of time.
  4. Prepare answers for questions representatives might ask you, i.e. Why do you want to attend grad/med/law school? When will you be applying? What would you like to do with this degree?
  5. Dress professionally. Remember, you want to make a good first impression.
  6. Give yourself plenty of time. Arrive early and, if you can, attend the session “How to make the most of the Grad School Fair” at 12:30 in the Gym (Racquetball court).

Zully Santiago receives honorary award for her work in The Writing Center

ZullyThis past summer our student (and the 2014 PRISM Symposium Best Poster Presentation winner) Zully Santiago received an Honorary Award presented by both the Department of Sciences and the Department of English for her contributions at the John Jay Writing Center. Professor Artem Domashevskiy, Zully’s research advisor, told us that “for many years now Zully has worked at the Writing Center, specializing in teaching John Jay’s Biochemistry students how to read and write scientific manuscripts in both The Journal of Biological Chemistry and Biochemistry Journal style formats, because I require lab reports in my Biochemistry classes to be submitted in those formats.”

Zully graduated in the spring, and will be attending CUNY Graduate Center to begin her Ph.D. studies this fall. Prof. Domashevskiy notes that “Zully is a very gifted, intelligent, creative, and hardworking young woman. I believe she will have a bright future as a researcher and academician and will become an exceptional professional in her field.”

10 Common Mistakes Made by Newbie Researchers – Part 3

By Zully Santiago, PRISM Undergraduate Researcher, Spring 2013 through Summer 2014SantiagoZully

Part 3 – Be a Responsible Labmate

8)     Mistake: You break something or spill something.

Solution: If you break glass, no big deal. Simply throw the glass out in the glass waste in a safe manner. Try to find all the pieces and so on. However, if there was a corrosive substance (or dangerous substance in anyway) in a container and it is now on the floor, do not touch it. Go ask for help. You can contact your mentor, any professors that may be around on the floor, or call security. Hopefully after your biohazard training, you’ll be able to handle simple spills and have information in order to contact someone for more dangerous spills. Again, know what you are working with and its hazards.

9)     Mistake: You need to go to class, so you rush cleaning, or you don’t clean at all because you’ll come back later.

Solution: If this happens, try to leave your mess in the most convenient way possible so that your lab mates can do their work, and leave a note. If your mess is potentially dangerous, call your mentor or a lab partner to help you take care of it. Nevertheless, make sure you clean up after yourself since the lab is shared. Don’t leave anything for someone else to clean. It isn’t fair or right to do so. Remember, not only are you the researcher, you are also your own lab technician, so no one is responsible for your mess other than yourself.  If you planned properly, you should have more than enough time to clean up after yourself. If someone leaves a mess, try to find out what everything is and clean it up for your own safety, and let your mentor know about it so that it doesn’t happen again.

10)     Mistake: At the end of the experiment, you place everything in a single waste container or attempt to throw the waste down the sink. You know better than this.

Solution: Again, if you understand how your chemicals work in your experiment, you will know how to dispose of them properly. Many chemicals cannot be put down the sink and many other chemicals will continue to react when mixed together, so think carefully. If you have multiple steps in a reaction, think about the intermediates, the chemicals used in each step, and find out if it is safe to put them all together. When in doubt, ask someone or play it safe and make separate waste containers if needed.

10 Common Mistakes Made by Newbie Researchers – Part 2

By Zully Santiago, PRISM Undergraduate Researcher, Spring 2013 through Summer 2014SantiagoZully

Part 2: Understand your Experiment Before Beginning

5)     Mistake: You quickly get a simple protocol or a recipe for your experiment (or, if you are lucky, you have a kit’s instructions). You immediately perform the experiment, but it fails horribly, and you have no idea what went wrong. You automatically assume the protocol, kit, or recipe is wrong and you did everything correctly.

Solution: Understand the experiment before you do it. Understand what every single chemical does and what role it plays in the experiment. I would say most failures in an experiment are human error by the scientist overlooking something simple but important. My rule, don’t touch a chemical unless you know what it does, how to care for it, what role it plays in your experiment, and how to safely dispose of it. If your experiment uses a kit, thoroughly understand how the kit works. If it is being used for separation, what kind of separation method is it? If it is chromatography, what kind? If it is a gel, how does it separate? What comes out first? Understand all the components of the kit before using the kit.

Often protocols that you find online or in books will not cover important details such as proper care and considerations for the chemicals you are using such as light sensitivity, reactions with moisture and air, temperature concerns, reactions with certain plastics, and so on. Also, keep in mind that time and exposure to the environment can heavily weigh on the experiment. A big overlooked factor is the shelf life of reagents. Remember, often when chemicals are exposed to water, hydrolysis occurs, slowly degrading the chemicals over time. So the chemical may have a long shelf life in its store-bought form, but it may have a very limited shelf life once in solution. This is a big issue for antibiotics and DTT.

Also, repeatedly thawing out and freezing chemicals or proteins can also severely degrade them. Record how often your reagents are thawed out or aliquot small amounts at a time so that you can use those amounts when needed rather than thawing out the whole stock container each time. The protocols and kits usually assume you know what the chemicals do and how to handle them—which often you don’t, so google everything or go to the company website and read up on your experiment and the reagents before handling them. When working with kits, thoroughly read the material that comes with it as it has detailed information on handling all the components of the kit.

6)     Mistake: You do an experiment, and it works! Or it fails! Who knows? Either way, you got some type of result…but you didn’t write anything down.

Solution: Again, it’s easy to follow protocols and recipes, but what matters are the specifics! What did you use? What conditions? What temperatures? What amounts? What chemicals? What order? How long? Again, there are so many factors involved in getting results outside of what is mentioned in the protocols. You need to document your steps and what has occurred. Based on your observations you may find better ways of doing the experiment. Or based on your observations, you have resolved a huge problem! However, we won’t know unless you write it down. In my experience, I rarely follow the protocol exactly; often I find better tweaks that provide good yields for my experiment, but I record deviations as well as observations. Moreover, if something goes wrong, often there are good scientific blogs on company websites and third party websites that talk about the same problems you may have had in the lab, so it is important that you record your observations because these forums and blogs may help resolve what went wrong and how to fix it.

7)     Mistake: You do the experiment from memory.

Solution: Never do your experiment from memory. You should always have the protocol or your previous observations handy just in case something turns out different. However, the main issue with trying to do an experiment from memory is that you will often forget a step, usually an important one. I see this happen a lot when students make buffers at the total volume desired, but they didn’t adjust the pH, so that added volume was not accounted for.

10 Common Mistakes Made by Newbie Researchers – Part 1

SantiagoZullyBy Zully Santiago, PRISM Undergraduate Researcher, Spring 2013 through Summer 2014

Part 1: Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

1)     Mistake: The same day you plan on doing the experiment is the same day you gather all the reagents, glassware, and any other materials required for the experiment…only to realize that you do not have the reagents or materials needed to actually conduct the experiment.

Solution: Plan your experiments two weeks in advance. So if you plan on making a gel next Thursday, make sure you have all the necessary reagents to make the buffer and the gel itself today. Also, today, you should check and make sure the tank is working and that you have all the parts. If you need your glassware autoclaved, make sure you do that in advance. Make sure you have everything you need way in advance of doing the experiment, so look over your experiment in detail before considering running it.

2)     Mistake: You want to do an experiment, but you are afraid without someone guiding you through it, so you keep putting it off until someone shows you.

Solution: The more you read and understand how your experiment works, the less guidance you will need. If you start thoroughly understanding your experiments when they are easy (usually in the beginning), the easier it will be for you to become independent. Ask questions regularly, but attempt to answer them yourself first! Seek out answers from various sources. This facilitates critical thinking. When you get stuck or you want to confirm your reasoning, then go to your mentor. Remember, however, that you are supposed to be the expert and the most knowledgeable person about your project, so go do it.

3)     Mistake: You are not able to finish an experiment in time.

Solution: Plan your experiment in advance (see Mistake #1). Even if you are doing an experiment for the first time, before you even attempt to do it, make sure you have all your reagents and materials that are needed. After, read through the protocol again and look for incubation periods. If there are any time periods, double the time required and add an hour just for prepping (gathering/cleaning glassware, labeling and so on). This should give you enough time to actually do the experiment (provided you don’t make any mistakes or have to start over). If you are using instrumentation, make sure it works and is calibrated in advance. I personally like to have a whole free day if I am doing a brand new experiment or working with a brand new instrument. I won’t touch an instrument or apparatus that I have never used before until I have read and watched videos handling them. YouTube has everything, and often company websites have videos on how to use their instruments. Sometimes you can imagine doing the experiment and planning out what glassware and materials you will need, but there always seems to be something overlooked, so give yourself more time to make mistakes.

4)     Mistake: You haven’t been in the lab for a while because of school or other projects. You are not sure where you left off, but you attempt to continue your experiment as planned and the next step fails horribly.

Solution: Check your samples and instruments before you use them! Run a small sample and see if it is working before you proceed to the next big step. For example, if you had proteins or DNA in storage for a while, run a gel and see if you are getting the bands you are supposed to. The same rule applies anytime you use an instrument. Run a standard and see if everything is working properly before you use up your samples.

 

Interested in Careers in Public Health?

The Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) will host a free recruitment fair for prospective students of public health this fall in New York City (September 22). The “This Is Public Health- Student Recruitment Fairs” allow prospective students to meet admissions staff from CEPH-accredited schools and programs of public health. This is a great opportunity for both prospective graduate and undergraduate students to learn about the growing field of public health. Several interactive activities, such as a panel session and presentations, are planned for this event. Refreshments will also be served.

The Fair will be hosted by NYU, at 100 Washington Square. To RSVP, follow this link. If you are thinking of going, let us know (Ed is thinking of going too!).

Join JJC at the NYC People’s Climate March on Sunday, September 21, 2014

On September 21st, hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens will gather north of Columbus Circle in NYC to take part in the People’s Climate March—what will soon be known as the largest march in support of global climate action. John Jay faculty and student contingents will meet at 11am on Sunday 9/21 in the atrium of the New Building, right inside the 59th street entrance. We will walk over to Columbus Circle as a group to join the march.

The People’s Climate March Lineup

In preparation for the 9/21 march, there will be two screenings of Disruption, a 1-hour film about climate change and the importance of marching. The film will screen on Wednesday 9/17, first during community hour in NB 1.108 and again from 5:30-6:50 in NB 1.85. The film is also streaming on-line: http://watchdisruption.com/

For more information about John Jay’s new program and minor in Sustainability and Environmental Justice, take a look at their brand-new website:  http://sustainabilityjjay.org/

National Multiple Sclerosis Society Event for Undergrad Researchers

During last summer, John Jay senior and PRISM student James Parziale James Parziale Photocompleted an undergraduate research experience through the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) at the NY Stem Cell Foundation laboratory of Valentina Fossati, Ph.D. This weekend, the NMSS will have its Annual Research Symposium, which is open to undergraduate students from all NYC institutions. The Symposium will begin with a discussion of new advances in MS research, and a talk from their Keynote speaker Dr. Ari Green.  The event will conclude with a mentoring session for undergraduate researchers by Dr. Green at 5pm. If you are interested in attending, RSVP by emailing the organizers.

For more details on the event, see the agenda here.

John Jay Student Travel – Fall 2014 Deadline

Interested in going to a conference, but the trip is more expensive than what PRISM can fund? John Jay College can help provide funding for your trip!

 Student Travel Fund

The Student Travel Fund provides students and student groups with funding to travel to conferences to enhance their professional and academic development. The maximum contribution for an individual proposal is $1,500. The maximum contribution for a group (4 or more students) is $5,000. Undergraduate students with at least a 2.5 GPA who have completed at least 30 credits are eligible.  Transfer students in their first semester must submit an official transcript from their previous institution. Deadline September 15, 2014 by 5pm. For more information, please go here.

The Web Guide to Research for Undergraduates

everhooddesign_webguru_logoThe Web Guide to Research for Undergraduates (WebGURU) is an interactive, web-based tool intended to assist students in navigating the hurdles of an undergraduate research experience. It contains articles and advice from faculty members, graduate school admissions officers, and students. Topics range from how to chose and interact effectively with your advisor and your lab’s research team, to tips on writing your first paper.  WebGURU is a great place to complement your PRISM experience at John Jay.

The site includes sections dedicated to professional development outside of the lab,  a database of research funding, a guide to opportunities for summer research experiences, and advice on how to apply to professional schools.

This is a great tool to guide you on your path to your science career and an excellent resource for advice on how to prepare for research work. Take a look and come discuss your questions with us at PRISM. We can help you create a personal plan to achieve your professional goals and get you to your planned career!

How to Ask for Letters of Recommendation – Part III

What if, when you take a lab or a class with an Adjunct Instructor or Professor, you not only do very well, but you also think he/she would be able to write an excellent recommendation letter talking about how you were the shining star in that class/lab?  Will the program you are applying to give the same weight to a letter signed by someone who is not a faculty member, or does not have a Ph.D. or M.S.?  This final part of the series provides advice regarding non-traditional letter writers. Unfortunately, there’s not a fast rule about this. Some schools prefer the letter writers to have advanced dtypewritteregrees, because those individuals have successfully completed graduate school and will be able to assess your abilities better. Some schools prefer letter writers to be full-time faculty, because faculty members are vested in the reputation of their school. All of this also depends on who evaluates your application and their own personal opinions. So no, there’s no easy answer. But there are options:

  1. Call the program that you are applying to and ask. Some schools will give you guidance, some schools won’t. Other schools will leave it up to you.
  2. Ask the lead faculty member to write the letter.  If an Adjunct Instructor taught a lab, and you did well in both the lab and class portion, consider asking the lead faculty member to write a letter and ask him/her to incorporate input from the Adjunct.
  3. Ask the coordinating faculty member to co-sign the letter.  If the class and the lab are taught by Adjunct Instructors, consider asking the faculty member that coordinates the class to co-sign the letter with them.
  4. Request letters from instructors of advanced courses.  I strongly recommend doing 1 and 2 only for high-level courses, not for introductory courses.