May 3, 2023—BRONX, NY—Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System have announced a collaboration with Lehman College of the City University of New York (CUNY) to launch the Einstein Discover Research Program. This unique research experience provides hands-on laboratory and scientific training for students from groups historically underrepresented in science and medicine, resulting in Master of Science (M.S.) degrees from CUNY.
“Montefiore Einstein is deeply committed to extending opportunities to members of our Bronx community and helping to diversify the scientific and medical workforce,” said Anne Bresnick, Ph.D., director of the Belfer Institute for Advanced Biomedical Studies, associate dean for postdoctoral affairs, and associate director of the NCI-designated Montefiore Einstein Cancer Center’s (MECC) research training and education coordination (CRTEC), which is administering the program. “We are privileged to have the Discover students join us on campus, contribute to important research taking place in our laboratories, and accumulate the knowledge and experience they need to pursue a successful career in the field.”
A Pathway to a Life in Science
The Discover Program immerses students in research, incorporating them into laboratory teams with National Institutes of Health-funded investigators, postgraduate fellows, Ph.D. students, and lab technicians. Each year, up to four students will be selected and funded by MECC or the Harold and Muriel Block Institute for Clinical and Translational Research at Einstein and Montefiore (ICTR). The students will conduct hypothesis-driven research over a 15-month period within a supportive laboratory environment.
Discover students also will attend weekly professional workshops to enhance their laboratory experience. They will take scientific writing and professional development sessions to assist them as they develop and defend their master’s theses. Students may simultaneously take their required classes at Lehman.
We are privileged to have the Discover students join us on campus, contribute to important research taking place in our laboratories, and accumulate the knowledge and experience they need to pursue a successful career in the field.
Anne Bresnick, Ph.D
A New Opportunity
CUNY Lehman College, a Bronx-based, minority-serving institution, currently offers a Master of Arts (M.A.) degree in biological sciences. Now, through the Discover program, it offers an M.S. degree, which will make students more competitive as they apply to medical and graduate schools.
“The new collaborative M.S. program offers Lehman students the opportunity to learn hypothesis development, experimental design, and cutting-edge techniques in supportive lab environments under the mentorship of scientists renowned for research in their fields,” said Stephen Redenti, Ph.D., associate professor of biology and of biochemistry at CUNY Lehman College.
Current and incoming students at Lehman College may apply to the program. The next group of students will begin the Discover program in January 2024. Each Discover student receives a $12,000 stipend to offset their expenses.
The inaugural class of Discover students began in January 2023. Three students—Jackriel Pina Morales, Marilyn Vallejo Alvarez, and Akua Mensah—display an eagerness to pursue a career in science or medicine.
“I've always loved science and am so glad I have this opportunity to gain experience in a lab, which will help me pursue a research career,” said Ms. Pina Morales. Originally from Puerto Rico, she received her bachelor's degree in biology from Hunter College. She is studying normal blood production and leukemia in the lab of Kristy Stengel, Ph.D., and is working toward receiving her M.S. degree from CUNY in June 2025. Ms. Pina Morales’ research project, “Using rapid protein degradation to determine the effect of RUNX1 loss-of-function on DNA damage accumulation and repair,” is supported by an award from Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation.
“The Discover program is a wonderful opportunity for everyone involved, including the labs where the students are based,” said Dr. Stengel, assistant professor of cell biology at Einstein and a member of MECC’s Stem Cell & Cancer Biology Research Program. “My postdoctoral fellows and graduate students who are supervising Jacky are gaining valuable mentoring experience. The entire lab benefits from having a person who has such passion and commitment to research.”
The other current students are Marilyn Vallejo Alvarez, who is studying the role of a cystic fibrosis-associated gene in lung cancer, and Akua Mensah, originally from Ghana, who recently was selected to compete for a Young Investigator Award from American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene for her research on cerebral malaria.
The program will be led by Kristina Ames, Ph.D., assistant director of MECC’s CRTE and assistant professor of oncology, and Zoe Tsagaris, M.S., OTR/L, director of clinical research resources in the ICTR. Paul Marantz, M.D., M.P.H., associate dean for clinical research education and associate director for the ICTR’s education and training programs, will provide additional leadership.