Students from Troy Athens High School and Troy-based International Academy East Campus recently visited Oakland University’s Eye Research Institute (ERI), where they received hands-on training in a variety of eye-related research areas, including tissue culture, DNA electrophoresis, bioinformatics and mouse Electroretinography (ERG) analysis.
ERI faculty members Dr. Ken Mitton and Dr. Shravan Chintala led the session and were assisted by OU students Cameron Atkinson and Yagya Sharma and recent graduate Dan Feldmann.
Dr. Mitton, who organized the visit, said that this type of activity gives high school students a preview of university-level research, while raising community awareness of Oakland’s high quality scientific and biomedical research.
“Students do not have to travel to other counties or states to be exposed to world class research,” Dr. Mitton explained. “Our pre-med students have the highest success rate in Michigan for getting into medical schools due to the excellent research training and support offered at OU.”
Providing opportunities for student research is a vital part of the center’s mission. Each year, ERI hosts the Summer Undergraduate Program in Eye Research (SUPER), an initiative that enables OU undergraduate students to take part in research sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and other agencies. With guidance from faculty members, participants use the latest research equipment and methodologies to train in the areas of biochemistry, cell biology, physiology, molecular biology and neuroscience. All SUPER scholars receive a $3,500 Research Fellowship.
“The SUPER program creates a very focused training experience that throws a student right into deep water and immediately challenges them to sink or swim and focus on research skill sets, much like they would experience if entering research after graduation,” said Dr. Mitton, SUPER program coordinator.
“ERI labs are workplaces with teams of people, and many students without previous work experience will learn the realities of workplace and lab etiquette. For anyone wanting a career in science or medicine, this is the best undergraduate opportunity to find out if science is really a field they can work in. Dealing with the investigation and exploration of the unknown is rarely the same routine.”
Now entering its 13th year, the SUPER program allows students to conduct research on eye diseases such as glaucoma, cataract, retinitis pigmentosa, macular degeneration, and FEVR, a blinding eye disease of infants. To cap off the 12-week experience, students present a PowerPoint talk on their projects during a campus symposium. Applications for this year’s program are available online
and must be submitted by Friday, March 1.
For more than 40 years, ERI has conducted research into the underlying causes and possible cures of many eye diseases. Faculty members have received more than $50 million in grants from public and private health agencies to support work on preventing blindness and vision loss.
For additional information on the 2013 Summer Undergraduate Program in Eye Research, view the website