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UC Irvine undergraduate summer research experience


This summer the MRC Centre for Developmental Neurobiology (MRC CDN) hosted 3 students from University of California, Irvine, as part of the Minority Health and Health Disparities International Research Training (MHIRT) program. Running since 1993, this NIH funded program gives undergraduate students from U.S. institutions the unique opportunity of having a short-term international research training experience. King’s College London, in collaboration with UC Irvine, has for the past 5 years hosted more than 40 students across different departments.

For Oran, Arsany and Alberto, all Biological Sciences or Biomedical Engineering majors of UC Irvine in their final year, this was a great opportunity to join the MRC CDN and conduct original research on developmental neuroscience, studying the processes underlying the early formation of neurons and how disruption of these mechanisms can lead to disease. During their two-month placement, the students were fully immersed in the Centre’s activities, benefiting from a close interaction with their supervisors and all other researchers.

Oran joined the laboratory of Dr. Rita Sousa-Nunes, Career Development Fellow, Cancer Research UK, where he worked with genetically modified fruit flies to study the role of specific microRNAs in the disruption of neural progenitor asymmetric divisions, a process that can lead to immortal and metastatic tumours.

"My mentor Dr Sousa-Nunes welcomed me to her RSN fly family with a kind heart and inspired me to learn not just about Drosophila but about what it takes to be successful in science."



Working in the laboratory of Setsuko Sahara, Arsany studied the development of pathogenic macrocephaly in humans using genomic engineering to induce Sotos syndrome in human induced pluripotent stem cells.
“Working with Dr. Sahara and the Centre this summer has been an incredible experience. Aside from learning some of the most innovative techniques in science, I feel that being a part of the Centre's collaborative approach to research has been one of the most beneficial aspects of my experience.“



Alberto’s summer research project, supervised by Dr. Clemens Kiecker, consisted of studying the effects of prenatal exposure to alcohol on thalamic differentiation in early development. “It was a unique and once in a lifetime experience to learn about developmental neurobiology with such great and intelligent mentors", said Alberto "Having one of the MHIRT students around this summer was a really enjoyable experience. Alberto is not only a diligent student who has been committed to his project, but he has also been a great social addition who integrated readily into our lab community and got along extremely well with the other students and postdocs. Having him around definitely helped to keep the momentum going in the lab over the usually quieter summer months.", said Dr. Kiecker.

According to Robert Hindges, Reader in Developmental Neurobiology at the MRC CDN and the KCL Coordinator for the Program, the student placement was once again a great success.

“It was truly impressive to listen to the student’s presentations at their farewell symposium. The directors of the MHIRT program at UC Irvine, Dr. Luis Mota-Bravo and Dr. Marlene de la Cruz, are doing a wonderful job in encouraging many young scientist to participate. The program selection is very competitive and so the students that we receive at KCL are usually excellent. In addition, many of them have never left California. So coming here to London is an incredible experience also on a personal level. Here at KCL, we are very proud to be selected as an international host for the MHIRT program of UC Irvine and look forward to a continuous collaboration between our Universities.”

Robert Hindges


For more information about the MIHRT program please visit their website