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- UROP Associate Director Catalina Ormsby Receives Distinguished Diversity Leaders Award
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- Thirty Years of UROP: Explore More
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- A two-way street: UROP Peer Facilitators support first-year, second-year, and transfer students in their research and academics — and learn from them in the process
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- Michael Kheir, MD
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- Yaera Spraggins, Recently Published UROP Alumni
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What Year(s) did you participate in UROP?
I participated in UROP from 1992 - 1994.
What UROP experiences were you a part of?
I was part of UROP. I did research for both of the years, so I may have been in the Research Scholars program. I did summer research during the summers after my sophomore, junior, and senior years. However, those were with my Honors Thesis/Concentration advisor and not with my original UROP advisors.
What made you choose UROP?
I chose UROP because I received information about the program before starting my freshman year. I enjoyed doing lab research during high school, especially during chemistry. I was pre-med and knew that I wanted to do a science major, and my older brother, who also graduated from UM but didn't do research as an undergrad, said that UROP sounded like a great way to get involved in research early on.
What do you think you’ve learned from your UROP experience?
The most valuable lesson I learned from UROP was the importance of conducting research and being exposed to it, even if that is not what you wish to pursue in your career. In fact, the majority of those of us who go to medical school and pursue healthcare do not perform research when we go into practice. However, I think the experience was very valuable. I still conduct research in my current practice and owe a lot to UROP for introducing me to research.
What is the extent to which you've kept in contact with your Research Mentor?
Unfortunately, I have not kept in touch with my original UROP mentors, Drs. Henry Griffin and Seyhan Ege, both of whom were in Chemistry. Dr. Ege passed away several years ago (she authored the dark-blue organic chemistry textbook that was used for both semesters of organic chem). I still keep in touch with my Honors Thesis/concentration advisor, Dr. Eran Pichersky, in Biology (now Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology), although I haven't seen him in person in over 20 years.
How did your UROP experience shape or inform the next steps you took in your academic and professional journey?
UROP shaped my career trajectory by giving me the knowledge, skills, training, and experience to pursue research. My laboratory interests include stem cell and gene therapy-based treatments for cardiovascular disease, and I have also participated in numerous clinical trials. Currently, I serve on the Editorial Board for the International Society for Cell and Gene Therapy (ISCT) newsletter, which emphasizes my area of research. Again, I think that UROP gave me the confidence to pursue research throughout my career.
What advice would you give to a current UROP student?
Advice I would give to current UROP students, especially those conducting biological sciences research and who are either pre-med or considering pursuing graduate school, would be to cherish every moment of the UROP experience. The opportunity to work very closely with a faculty member is priceless in that the experience will teach you how to think critically, to design and carry out experiments, to analyze data, and, most importantly, to present or publish your research. Scientific communication was also a big skill I learned from UROP in the form of poster presentations at the annual symposium as well as oral presentations before graduate students and faculty. I think a UROP-type experience is almost mandatory if you are thinking of applying to medical school, so it's a great program to be a part of.
A final piece of advice I would give to UROP students is to always think about the business aspects of their research and how their findings will create value for greater society. The obvious example is biomedical research, although research in many other fields contributes to society in countless ways. I read a quote recently from the virologist at the University of Pittsburgh who is working on one of the breakthrough vaccines, and he said something of the sort that it is important to provide funding for all types of virology research because you never know when or where the next big pandemic will occur. I think after this current pandemic that there will be a substantially greater interest in scientific research and that students who go through UROP today will be very well-positioned to be competitive in this field of work.
What are some recent accomplishments you are most proud of?
Of note, I did return to UM in 2016 - 2018 to receive an Executive MBA from the Ross School of Business, so while I owe my undergraduate experience and UROP experience a lot, other programs at Michigan have contributed greatly to me as well!