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Transylvania student spends summer researching autism at Stanford University

Joshua SchwartzLEXINGTON, Ky.—Transylvania University senior Joshua Schwartz is spending his summer in California, but he is not lounging on the beach—Schwartz is helping conduct cutting edge research on autism-linked signaling pathways in stem cells at Stanford University.

A chemistry and biology double major, Schwartz is at Stanford as part of the Amgen Scholars Summer Research Program, an eight-week biomedical research-intensive program that admitted 30 students from the nearly 500 applicants from across the country.

“The laboratory I’m assigned studies the neuroscience of autism and my project is to create brain cells, known as neurons, derived from autistic patients’ skin cells,” explains Schwartz. “Other lab members have already programmed these skin cells into stem cells and now I am trying to make the stem cells differentiate into neurons. This approach to making neurons from autistic patients’ skin cells has two significant implications: it provides a source of potential transplantable neurons to treat autistic patients in the future and scientists may investigate the effects of potential pharmaceuticals on neurons derived from autistic patients.”

Students in the program are matched up with a member of Stanford’s faculty and conduct their research projects in the university’s state-of-the-art laboratories. The program culminates in a symposium where students present talks and posters on their summer projects to Stanford faculty, lab mentors and university administrators.  In addition to their time in the lab, students in the program also participate in science field trips, graduate education workshops and social outings, allowing for networking opportunities.

Joshua Schwartz at Yosemite National Park in California
Schwartz at Yosemite National Park.
“Amgen has provided numerous opportunities, including sessions to meet graduate and medical school deans as well as current graduate students,” said Schwartz. At one of these sessions, Schwartz met Laura Edgington a 2006 Transylvania graduate, who was serving on a Stanford graduate students panel. Edgington is pursuing a Ph.D. in cancer biology at Stanford.

“This summer is very rewarding and has solidified my interest in pursuing medical research, specifically neuroscience,” said Schwartz.

8/13/2009

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