FSU BioChem Students Receive Prestigious Summer Internships

Date: May 31, 2018

Each summer, undergraduate students across the country studying biology and chemistry apply and compete for research internships where they can learn more about the field of BioChem and can get experience in hands-on laboratory research. This summer, several students from Fayetteville State have been accepted to prestigious internships and will head out this summer to represent FSU. This summer, FSU students Don Eaford, Leslie Charles, Shamar Wallace, and Rashad Baker will all be attending summer research internships while Marissa Baccas will be attending Cornell University as a doctoral student.

Fayetteville State University Professor of Biochemistry, Dr. Subir Nagdas, has been teaching at FSU since 2005.  He selects students from each class to participate in his research laboratory.  Nagdas forms a tight bond with his students and becomes more than just their professor, but also becomes their family and mentor.

Nagdas takes the role of academic advisor seriously and works closely with each student that becomes a part of his lab. Any given year, he has around 7-8 students participating in his lab research. Nagdas works with biochemistry and biology students to help prepare them for their next step after graduating from FSU. Often, Biochem and biology students go on to graduate school. Nagdas has made it his priority and passion to mentor his students and prepare them to be successful in their next step. He has stressed the importance of getting experience through a summer research internship and how critical it is for future graduate school opportunities. This year, four of Nagdas' students have obtained prestigious summer internships, and one of his students has been accepted to Cornell University Graduate School Dr. Nagdas could not be prouder.

"I get very close to these students.  I treat the students who come to my lab as family members," Nagdas said. "I encourage students to go to intense schools for the summer - they need to see the world outside of Fayetteville, so they can prepare themselves for the next level of education."

Eaford Charles Baccas Baker Wallace

Summer research internships are approximately two and a half months long and serve the purpose for students to do research under professors at different universities. They have mentors and, at the end of the summer, they must present their results at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students. The internships provide room and board for the students as well as a stipend.  The process for obtaining a research internship starts early. Summer Internships are not required for their degree at FSU, but Nagdas encourages each of his students to obtain research experience because of its importance in getting to the next level. Each November, he encourages his students to begin applying to programs and encourages them to apply to at least 20 summer schools.

Don Eaford Jr., a junior, will be spending his summer research internship at Harvard University Medical School. His future goal is to get a PhD in Biochemistry and implement it towards Cardiovascular Research.
"My experience here at FSU has helped to develop me into a better student, and with the addition to joining Dr. Nagdas' Lab during my sophomore year; his encouragement guided me to become more prepared for graduate school," Eaford said." The numerous opportunities and help that I have received, is what most would call a very prestigious opportunity. I am very grateful to have met such a successful group of people."   Leslie Charles, a Junior, will be at Harvard Medical School as well. She will participate in the Summer Honors Undergraduate Research Program. Her future plans include to one day obtain an MD/Ph.D. degree in reproductive sciences and conduct biomedical research in this field to expand the scientific body of knowledge about the pathophysiology of human reproduction.

"My experience working with Dr. Nagdas has been transformative, valuable, and constructive. I consider myself fortunate to have a mentor that motivates me to invest in myself and to give 100% to everything that I do. I have always wanted to do research, but it was difficult to find someone who was willing to provide advice and to help navigate the trials of starting a career in science," Charles said. "Since joining the lab and interacting with the other lab members, my experience has been nothing short of fulfilling. Constantly learning new things and pursuing this track of research has proven to be exciting and greatly rewarding."   Shamar Wallace, a junior, will participate in the Summer Undergraduate Research Program in Biochemistry REU at Texas A&M University this summer. He hopes to attend graduate school to earn a doctoral degree in chemistry or biochemistry after he graduates. He would eventually like to focus on research that is centered on gaining more information about diseases that are prevalent in minority populations in the United States.

"Working with Dr. Nagdas has been a unique and beneficial experience. Before working with him, I was unsure if research, especially biochemistry research, was something that I would enjoy. Since I began working with him and the other lab members, I have learned more about different techniques, how effective research is done, and how biochemistry research, such as ours, can provide more insights in to human health issues such as infertility. In addition, I have learned more about myself and the necessary traits that will lead to success in future career fields," Wallace said.

Rashad Baker, a senior, will be doing a research project at the Syracuse University. Other students in Nagdas' lab are still waiting to hear back from summer programs they have applied to.   

In addition to their summer opportunities, each of these students are part of Nagdas lab/research programs at FSU. They each choose a program and do individual research. They come up with the plan and do the research and experiments. Eventually they will publish and present their findings. Each student receives a stipend through different programs.  

"I want to see who is highly devoted to research. I don't expect them to know everything. I will teach them," Nagdas said. "They have to learn a lot, so that they can compete when they leave the school. My main goal is to teach them and make them globally competitive."

One of Nagdas' senior students, Marissa Baccas attended Cornell University in 2017 for a summer research project. This fall she will attend Cornell as a PhD student in Biochemistry. She hopes to enter academia and serve as a professor, researcher, and mentor to students at the undergraduate level -- specifically underrepresented minority students in their pursuit of higher education and professional development.  

"Working with Dr. Nagdas has been really rewarding. Over the past three years he has pushed me to maximize my potential and to take advantage of all the resources available to me here at FSU," Baccas said. "Dr. Nagdas can also be strict. He is straightforward and fair and will tell me when I am underperforming academically or in the lab, or if there are other problems with my behavior. All these qualities make him a great mentor and I appreciate all the hard work he has put into mentoring me."  

"When she (Baccas) went to Cornell they were pleased with her work. Her advisor there asked her to apply for the PhD program and she was accepted," Nagdas said. "When they know you, and the time comes to apply to the school, they talk about you; that is important. It's not easy to get into that type of school. It is a huge competition, so I always tell my students, and they listen - it won't benefit me, it benefits them."

Nagdas' hope is that when his students leave FSU to further their education or to represent FSU in the STEM profession is that they are ready and prepared.

"When they leave Fayetteville State, the main thing is that they should be extremely competitive and can compete with all the research intense schools," Nagdas said. "They will enter in their program of interest and become a highly professionally successful person." 

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