Education Corner

Jenna and Priscilla spent the summer of 2017 at the RCSB PDB with support from an NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU). Their work focused on exploring PDB structures related to antimicrobial resistance. Identification of these structures helps researchers understand antibiotic inactivation and drug resistance. Their insights from the summer included suggestions for how to improve the presentation of antibiotic resistance-related PDB structures on, and also led to the development of the 2018 RCSB PDB Calendar. Their work provided them with another opportunity: poster presentations at the 2017 Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS).

ABRCMS supports one of the largest communities of underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The focus is on 1800+ students who present their research, explore graduate schools, and network with mentors and administrators.

Jenna Reports:

Having never before attended a scientific conference, I did not know what to expect. When I first arrived in Phoenix, I was greeted with warm air and the opportunity to interact with unfamiliar faces. I was amazed by the size of the convention center and the number of individuals in attendance. I got to meet students from all over who are as passionate as I am about scientific research, regardless of discipline. It was also great seeing some familiar faces from my summer at the Rutgers RISE program. I then had the opportunity to walk into a large exhibit hall to witness all these organizations and universities who aim to help students succeed in finding their niche in science. It was useful to me as an undergraduate senior to interact with the 500 universities in attendance in the exhibit hall.  Speaking with representatives from schools that offer Ph.D. programs in the biomedical sciences helped me solidify my graduate school and graduate program application targets.  I really appreciated that at ABRCMS the emphasis was on students and making us more prepared for a career in science.  It created a very enthusiastic and positive atmosphere for so many people that are passionate about science.

I also had the wonderful opportunity to look around Phoenix. I visited the 2012 James Turrell artwork Air Apparent at Arizona State University, which incorporated both science and modern art. This artist allows viewers to sit outside and watch the sunset through this deep ceiling that changed colors. It was a mesmerizing sight that I truly enjoyed!

Let’s not forget that I also had the chance to present my summer research from the Rutgers RISE program. I spent 10 weeks of my summer doing structural biology research at the RCSB Protein Data Bank, where I looked into the 3D structure of antimicrobial resistance proteins. I specifically focused on the evolutionary origin of the aminoglycoside modifying enzymes.  Over the summer, we learned that one of the most important components of science is the ability to communicate your findings with others. I am very grateful to the RCSB PDB for the opportunity to be able to attend this conference and present my summer research at ABRCMS.

Priscilla Reports:

Presenting at ABRCMS was a very insightful and rewarding experience. This conference was aimed to help students by providing professional development, scientific talks, and  the opportunity to present their research. More than 2,000 college students from around the nation presented their research in Phoenix.

The information I gained from the professional development talks was impressive. I specifically found out how to apply to an MD/PhD program directly from representatives from multiple universities. Another talk I attended discussed how to make the best out of a mentor/ mentee research experience. Additionally, another talk showcased multitudes of careers one can go into with a PHD including which companies were hiring and the company's location.

There were many interesting student presentations from infectious disease to engineering, psychology, and computational biology. One student was conducting his research on rivers in Georgia. He was studying the toxicity of the water and how it affected fish and furthermore human consumption. In this pilot study used zebrafish as his model organism. Moreover, another student’s presentation dealt with the amount of MRSA on beaches in Hawaii. It is important not to go into the water with an open wound because of the risk of infection, especially if one is immunocompromised. This student found that there was MRSA on the sand and that there was a correlation between beaches where freshwater from the mountains meet the ocean and rate of MRSA found.

I feel that the RISE program prepared me very well for my poster presentation with judges. Having previously presented my summer research on Beta Lactamase Enzymes to Antimicrobial Resistance in the PDB made me comfortable answering questions from the judges and other visitors to my poster.  

Overall, this conference was eye opening. There are so many opportunities that students can take in order to make an impact in the world. It was great to see what my peers are doing  in research and how much further they will go to advance it.  Ultimately, this conference made me more determined to follow my future endeavours of studying Infectious disease through an MD/PhD program.

RISE (Research Intensive Summer Experience) at Rutgers program.  RISE is a nationally acclaimed summer research program for outstanding undergraduates from diverse backgrounds. Scholars participate in 10 weeks of cutting-edge research in the biological, physical, and social/ behavioral sciences, math, engineering, and exciting interdisciplinary areas under the guidance of carefully matched faculty mentors. A comprehensive professional development component, including GRE preparation, complements the research.  Apply for RISE and you may wind up working with the RCSB PDB!


Jenna Abyad is currently a senior at Drew University majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. For her senior thesis with Drew Research Institute for Scientists Emeriti fellow, Dr. Vincent Gullo, she is currently conducting research synthesizing an antibacterial compound. Jenna is currently applying to PhD programs.

Priscilla Marie Salcedo is a junior at California State University Northridge majoring in Microbiology. She has been working with the Flores Environmental Microbiology lab, trying to isolate a bacteria called Akkermansia muciniphila. She plans to apply to MD/PhD programs next year.