Two Binghamton University students who conducted research through the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Program recently had their findings published in scientific papers.
According to Elizabeth Button, program coordinator for the HHMI at Binghamton, the program provides a year-long interdisciplinary research experience focused on problems and questions related to the life sciences.
“The goal of this HHMI funded program is to attract and prepare undergraduate students, especially those groups underrepresented in their disciplines for future careers in the biomedical and life sciences by involving them in interdisciplinary research across STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines,” Button wrote in an email.
Button said the program puts students in teams that represent two or more areas of study, “One relating to the life sciences and another relating to the physical sciences, mathematics, computer science or engineering.”
Alumnus Joshua Rosenkranz, class of 2012, who majored in computer science and was one of the two BU students whose work was published, conducted research involving the biology and computer science departments. He used data from the Gilboa Fossil Forest, an area in New York state that is believed by scientists to be the world’s oldest forest.
“My primary goal was to construct a panoramic image that would display all minute details accurately of the Gilboa Site,” Rosenkranz wrote in an email.
Rosenkranz said he was attracted to the prospect of expanding his knowledge of graphics and image processing and to get more hands-on experience.
“When I was notified of the program, I was currently doing research under Professor Lijun Yin,” Rosenkranz wrote. “He suggested I apply for the program so that I could expand my knowledge of the graphics and image processing fields and also gain more experience while working on an interesting problem … I have always had a fascination with image manipulation and feature detection and I thought this project would serve as a great fit with my interests [they are recreating images of the fossils using computer programs].”
Button said students in the HHMI program work full-time over the summer on their projects, attending weekly meetings to give presentations or discuss special topics like research possibilities, résumé writing and research careers.¶
“At the end of the summer the students present their work at a poster session open to the public,” Button wrote. “The students continue their research throughout the academic year culminating with another poster session at the end of April. There are monthly meetings during the academic year where students give presentations about their progress and discuss special topics.”
Rosenkranz said he gained valuable experience from his participation in the HHMI program.
“The HHMI program was a good way to further expose me to research and was a great experience for me,” he said. “Not only did it allow me to delve into interesting problems, but it also gave me the chance to see how the knowledge I gained in class could be applied to real world problems.”