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RISE to new knowledge

By Sharon Gray

Two university students from Puerto Rico are enjoying a summer in Newfoundland and honing their research skills through a new exchange program.

The students are working in two biomedical science laboratories in the Faculty of Medicine. Rhaisa Castrodad is working in the laboratory of Dr. Michiru Hirasawa, and Myriam Hernandez is in Dr. Daniel MacPhee’s laboratory.
They are here under an exchange program called RISE (Research Initiative for Scientific Involvement).

A memorandum of understanding was negotiated this spring and early summer, with the assistance of Dr. Anthony Dickinson of Memorial’s International Centre, between the University of Puerto Rico-Cayey and Memorial University to establish a summer undergraduate student training initiative for students at UPR-Cayey in Puerto Rico.

The program is funded at UPR-Cayey through the National Institutes of Health, GlaxoSmithKline, and Merck Pharmaceutical Cos.

Dr. MacPhee organized the visit of the two students after hearing about the program from his sister, Dr. Chantelle MacPhee, an associate professor of English who was teaching at UPR-Cayey. He said the learning experience can go in both directions in the future as the potential is there for Memorial faculty or students to provide workshops and lectures to undergraduates in Cayey.

“The intention of the program is to expose students to research in general, particularly undergraduate students who are thinking about medical school or graduate school in the near future,” said Dr. MacPhee. “RISE students are required to write a report on their experiences and findings at Memorial and if they produce enough data for a poster or other presentation for a later meeting, their participation in such a meeting will be covered by RISE.”

Memorial is the first Canadian university to be a part of the RISE program. Judging by the enthusiastic response of the first two exchange students, it’s a success. Ms. Hernandez, who is entering her fourth year of a biology degree in August, said she has learned a lot working with a placental trophoblast cell line in Dr. MacPhee’s laboratory. Ms. Castrodad, who will start her third year of a biology degree next month, said her work in Dr. Hirasawa’s laboratory characterizing central neurons is providing valuable experience.