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Description of Internship Opportunities Internship Opportunity #1 University of Texas – Houston School of Public Health, Brownsville Regional Campus (located on UTB Campus) Title: Youth Physical Activity and Policy Research Mentor: Cristina Barroso, DrPH People who are physically active are at decreased risk of obesity, certain cancers, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. For this reason, legislation is enacted to encourage children to become physically active. Texas Senate Bill 530 requires that elementary and middle school students participate in at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day or a total of 135 minutes per school week. Intern’s responsibilities: This internship will examine measures of school-based implementation of physical activity. The intern will be responsible for conducting and reporting descriptive statistics (frequencies, percentages, means, standard deviations, etc.) from various data collection tools. The intern should have a strong interest in math, physical activity, and nutrition. The intern will hone communication (written and verbal), computerized data analysis and presentation skills. Internship Opportunity #2 University of Texas – Houston School of Public Health, Brownsville Regional Campus (located on UTB Campus) Title: Association Between Diabetes and Tuberculosis Mentor: Blanca I. Restrepo, PhD The current pandemic of type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM) is accelerating in a world where approximately one third of the population is latently infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB). Recent studies along the US/Mexico border indicate that rates of DM are disproportionately high among Hispanics, mostly Mexican-Americans, with TB. DM has long been known to modify and complicate the presentation, prognosis and treatment of TB. We recently examined 6 years of retrospective data from more than 5,000 TB outpatients seen in TB clinics both sides of the US/Mexico border. Self-reported DM was 27.8% among Texan patients, significantly exceeding background rates in the same population. When compared to TB-non DM patients, those with DM were more likely to present drug resistant infections. Furthermore, TB-DM patients were more likely to have a positive smear and culture at diagnosis and during the first two months of treatment. These observations suggest that DM patients respond less well to TB treatment, and may present a higher risk for transmitting M. tuberculosis in the community. A prospective study we are currently conducting indicates that our retrospective findings are underestimates, with fully 40% of TB patients with DM co-morbidity. Aim 1. Estimate the prevalence of DM according to American Diabetes Association (ADA) criteria among TB patients from the Texas-Mexico border. Aim 2. Determine the impact of DM on mycobacterial clearance from sputum during the course of DOTS treatment, when compared to TB patients without DM or other underlying risk factors. Intern’s responsibilities: 1. Learning the basics of tuberculosis as well as its diagnosis and management in the United States and the Rio Grande Valley. 2. Assist with data collection of the patients identified and enrolled in the research study. 3. Become familiar with data management software in order to assist with data entry, cleaning and analysis. Internship Opportunity #3 University of Texas – Houston School of Public Health, Brownsville Regional Campus (located on UTB Campus) Title: Cervical Cancer and Human Papillomavirus Research Mentor: Rose Gowen, MD Cervical dysplasia is a precancerous change in the cells of the cervix that can lead to cervical cancer if left untreated. It has been proven that the acquisition of the Human Papilloma Virus is related to, and in fact, causative of Cervical Cancer in up to 85% of cases. This project involves the evaluation of abnormal pap smears and cervical dysplasia in adolescent women in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Our objective is to retrospectively determine whether cervical dysplasia in adolescent Mexican-American women following an abnormal Pap smear occurs at a high frequency and/or an earlier age than in the United States nationally. Intern’s responsibilities: The intern will assist in the performance of a retrospective chart review in three gynecological clinics covering a period of 2 years from 2005- 2007. De-identified clinical and pathological data recorded during routine clinic visits will be extracted and recorded in a single comprehensive database. Primary analysis will be based on severity/type of cervical lesion obtained by colposcopic biopsy as the dependent variable. Independent variables will include age, Pap smear cytology, gynecological cancers and genital warts. Additionally, the intern will observe the care and course of adolescent Mexican - American women including any and all surgical procedures required. The student will interact with me each day and will become closely familiar with the concepts of gynecologic care. They will also gain an intimate understanding of risk factors related to cervical dysplasia and its prevention. Internship Opportunity #4 Jointly offered by University of Texas – Houston School of Public Health and The University of Texas at Brownsville/ Texas Southmost College Title: Adult Diabetes Research Mentors: Susan Fisher-Hoch, MD, M.Sc. and Anne Rentfro, B.S.N. The National Institutes of Health have funded the School of Public Health to carry out a research project entitled Project EXPORT: Creation of a Hispanic Health Research Center in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. One part of this research is associated with examining factors that contribute to diabetes among Hispanic adults. Type 2 diabetes mellitus undeniably poses major health burdens for individuals, families, and populations. Particular populations appear to be especially vulnerable to type 2 diabetes. Among these is the Mexican American population which not only bears a disproportionate burden due to diabetes, but the burden will only increase as a result of rapid population growth and aging of this relatively young population. Susceptibility to type 2 diabetes mellitus has long been known to have a substantial genetic component, but the number of genes, their locations and mechanisms of action remain to be elucidated. Substantial progress in this regard has been made with the completion of several complete genome scans (including our own) and our recent identification of calpain 10 as a susceptibility locus. In the course of this experience, it has become clear that a rate limiting step hindering gene identification is the availability of appropriate samples and phenotypic data. To this end, the Diabetes Core project establishes a cohort representative of the Mexican American population, as well as, an enriched sample of young onset (prior to age 30) type 2 diabetics, and molecular studies to establish a valuable research and training infrastructure. Intern’s responsibilities: 1. Assist with enumeration of households and individuals in the household to determine age, gender and diabetes status based on history. 2. Assist in the recruitment and examination of study participants, the identification of individuals with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus who are under the age of 20, including exams such as height and weight, body fat analysis, blood pressure and phlebotomy. 3. Assist with interviews to collect data. 4. Assist with data entry in an electronic database. 5. Assist with data analysis and reporting of results. Internship Opportunity #5 The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College Title: Neuroscience Research in Epilepsy Mentor: Emilio Garrido, MD, PhD The Garrido laboratory is located at the University of Texas Brownsville Texas Southmost College and is dedicated to investigating the basic mechanisms provoking epilepsy. Several molecular biology and electrophysiological techniques are used to understand which ion channels and receptors are affected in chronic epilepsy. Epilepsy is a devastating neurological disease and our major goal is to develop pharmacological and genetic treatments for epilepsy. Intern’s responsibilities: The intern will work with Dr. Garrido to conduct experiments. For more information visit our website: http://blue.utb.edu/egarrido/ Internship Opportunity #6 The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College Title: Sedimentology of the Lomas in Bahia Grande Mentor: Elizabeth Heise, PhD The federal government has funded the Department of Chemistry and Environmental Sciences to monitor the restoration of the Bahia Grande Wetlands. One part of this research is to re-vegetate the shores and lomas of the wildlife refuge to prevent erosion. The aim of this study is to determine the differences in the sediment in the vegetated and unvegetated uplands of the Bahia Grande, so that the revegetation project will be successful. Aim 1. Determine the amount of organic matter in sediments of unvegetated lomas. Goal: Assess the amount of organic matter to enable more successful transplanting of native vegetation. Aim 2. Determine the amount of organic matter in sediments of vegetated lomas. Goal: Assess the amount of organic matter to determine what the necessary levels are to support plant growth. Aim 3. Plan a strategy for transplanting native plants on the lomas. Goal: The successful transplanting of native plants will slow down the erosion. Intern’s responsibilities: The scope of the student’s internship will entail working directly with the environmental science faculty and students as we collect sediment cores, sample the cores, and run the analyses. Specifically, the intern will collect samples in the field and data in the laboratory on South Padre Island. The fieldwork will include using a GPS to locate the sample location, collection of field data such as temperature and vegetation cover, and coring of the sediments. Additionally, the laboratory work will include sampling the cores, using a muffle furnace to determine the amount of organic matter in the sediment samples. Internship Opportunity #7 University of Texas Pan American Title: A Search for Bacterial Proteins, Toxic to the House Fly, Which could be used to Control the Pest in an Environmentally Friendly Manner Mentor: Joanne Rampersad-Ammons, PhD The soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), produces a crystal comprised of different proteins, each of which can be toxic to a specific species of insect, yet harmless to anything else that consumes them. Because these toxins will kill only specific species of insects, Bt toxins are used as an ecologically friendly alternative to chemical insecticides on everything from backyard gardens to large scale forestry applications. The genes that code for these proteins have also been cloned into commercial crop plants to help protect them from pests. In our laboratory we have a library of different Bt strains, each producing a different set of toxins. At present, we do not know which insects each bacterial strain is toxic against. Intern’s Responsibilities: The student’s internship will be to determine if any of the isolates in our library are toxic to the house fly and if so, time permitting, to identify and characterize the genes responsible for the toxicity. This project will expose the intern to techniques in a wide range of fields, including microbiology, biochemistry and biotechnology. Our objective is to find a toxin that can be used safely and effectively to control the population of the disease carrying house fly. Internship Opportunity #8 University of Texas Pan American Title: Design, Synthesis and Mechanism of Action of Novel Anticancer Drugs Mentor: Bimal K. Banik, Ph. D. F. R. S. C., President’s Endowed Professor, Science and Engineering; Professor, Chemistry The Department of Chemistry at UTPA is committed to the mission of providing quality education in the process of preparing students for graduate work or careers in biology, chemistry and biomedical sciences. My specific aims are: 1. Chemistry, Biology and Pharmacology of Novel Anticancer -Lactams 2. Organometallics in the Synthesis of Biologically Active Compounds 3. Polycyclic Aromatic Compounds as New Anticancer Agents 4. Medicinal Chemistry by Microwave-Induced Reactions This project has been funded by National Institutes of Health, UT M. D. Anderson Cancer Center and Private Foundations. Intern’s responsibilities: The internship will entail working directly with the chemistry faculty and students to design, synthesis and find a mechanism of action of novel anticancer drugs. A particular focus of the internship will be to understand the interaction of organic drug molecules with living systems. The intern will conduct literature reviews, run experiments, analyze data, summarize results and present research findings in professional meetings. Internship Opportunity #9 University of Texas Pan American Title: Plant Stress and Physiology Research Mentor: Michael Persans, PhD The main topics of my research are: the isolation and characterization of genes involved in heavy metal tolerance in plants, the metabolism of herbicides by plants and the use of remote sensing to monitor environmental pollution caused by heavy metals using plants as a model indicator organism. These projects also relate to human health in that they are involved in the sensing and fate of toxic chemicals in the environment The herbicide metabolism project involves the study of Cytochrome P450 enzymes in plants and how they detoxify herbicides. By studying these enzymes in plants we hope to learn more about the mechanisms of toxin metabolism and apply these results to further understand the mechanisms that plants may use to detoxify drugs. The tolerance of plants to heavy metal toxicity is another project in the lab. By understanding the mechanisms by which heavy metals are tolerated, a possible scheme could be devised for the phytoremediation of heavy metals. In addition, plants genetically engineered to hyperaccumulate large amounts of heavy metals could be used for phytoremediation purposes to clean up toxic sites which may be health threats. The remote sensing project seeks to study the effects that stress such as pathogen attack and heavy metal poisoning has on the spectral properties of plants. By observing the effects that stress has on plants early, plants may be used as early indicators of metal toxicity in the environment and/or indicators of pathogen attack. Intern’s responsibilities: The intern will assist with experiments and data analysis in the projects mentioned above. Internship Opportunity #10 University of Texas Pan American Title: Microbial Ecology and Evolution Research Mentor: Anita Davelos Baines, PhD Our research focuses on investigating microbial interactions in terrestrial and marine environments using genetic and biochemical approaches. Ongoing projects include local adaptation of bacterial communities in the Laguna Madre, associations of microbial communities with plant communities of different ages and characterization of bacteria that may be useful in biological control of plant pathogens. Intern’s responsibilities: The intern will choose one of these projects and then work with Dr. Baines and other students in the laboratory to learn methods, conduct experiments, and analyze and interpret results. Methods used in the lab include PCR, gene sequencing, inhibitory assays, TLC, and nutrient utilization profiles.
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