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NIH Welcomes Summer Undergraduate Students

By Danielle Wittenberg

The NIGMS Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) Program recently brought together about 150 undergraduate students and several high school, medical and graduate students working at NIH this summer for a welcoming ceremony in their honor.

Dr. Hinda Zlotnik, a program director in the NIGMS Division of Minority Opportunities in Research who was responsible for organizing the event said, "The venue provided the summer students an opportunity to meet one another as well as key NIH directors and staff."

Dr. Michael Gottesman expresses his excitement at having approximately 1,000 undergraduate students working in NIH labs this summer.

The students were welcomed by Dr. Michael Gottesman, NIH deputy director for intramural research, who described opportunities in the field of biomedical research and encouraged the students to face such intellectual and social challenges as health disparities. "Biology is just the beginning — you have the opportunity to do whatever you want to do in this field," he said. Gottesman also shared with students more practical reasons to get into science careers: "It's fun to work in labs, to collaborate and work with other scientists, and to travel to scientific meetings to learn what's happening in science." In addition, he noted, "scientists are paid reasonably well."

The acting deputy director of NIH, Dr. Yvonne Maddox, spoke to the students on behalf of NIH acting director Dr. Ruth Kirschstein and herself. She described NIH as "an organization that belongs to the people &151; the United States and the countries we serve." She encouraged the students to "go outside of the confines and interact with one another — spend time visiting with other outstanding scientists. This is the best biomedical enterprise in the world. Go away from here feeling that you've accomplished something."

Dr. Yvonne Maddox (second from r) takes the opportunity to meet with students after her remarks.

The event's keynote speaker was Dr. John Ruffin, NIH associate director for research on minority health. He informed the students of NIH's great expectations for them. "All of the construction that is going on around this campus is for you. Discoveries are not going to happen overnight — they are going to happen because of you — you will take them forward," he said. "We are not a great country unless everybody is involved. Sensitivity is needed to get more young people and minorities involved in science. We all have the responsibility to bring others into science — nurturing happens all along the way. Our being here today is our way of nurturing you and getting more and more of you into biomedical research."

Following the ceremony, students were encouraged to ask questions and meet each other and the speakers. Natalia Purcell Servena, an undergraduate student from the University of Puerto Rico working at NIDCD, said that the event "permitted good interactions with NIH staff who can really help us in achieving our goals. The speakers clearly identified what our goals should be this summer — to prepare for careers in research and to take advantage of the cultural interactions the field of science has to offer."

This year's event marks the second annual NIH-wide summer undergraduate student welcoming ceremony hosted by the MARC program.

Keynote speaker Dr. John Ruffin greets a student following the ceremony.

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