Ben & Catherine Ivy Foundation Funds Promising Students Who Study Brain Disease and Disorders at TGen

Ivy Neurological Science Internship Program provides dedicated students committed to helping benefit brain cancer patients

PHOENIX, Ariz. — The Ivy Neurological Science Internship Program at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is hosting five promising young students for the 2015-16 academic year, sponsored by the Arizona-based Ben & Catherine Ivy Foundation.

Now in its fourth year, the Ivy program offers hands-on biomedical research experience for high school, undergraduate and medical school students pursuing careers in brain tumor research, neuroscience and neurogenomics.

World-class scientific investigators at TGen mentor interns in the translational process of moving laboratory discoveries into new treatments for patients. Clinical training enables the interns to understand the ultimate focus of TGen’s investigations — patients.

“The Ivy internships at TGen provide the exposure and additional training needed by a new generation of scientists to help solve the complex problems faced by patients with brain cancer,” said Catherine Ivy, President of The Ben & Catherine Ivy Foundation. “This elite group of students will be called on one day to elevate brain research to a new level.”

The program allows TGen to offer top students time in the laboratory to further develop their bioscience skills. Students benefit from the immersive experience in scientific inquiry and the opportunity to take ownership of a patient-centered research project.

Marya Sabir, who has majored in Biochemistry at ASU and graduates in December (2015), is an aspiring medical school student who will defer one year of classroom studies to work full-time at TGen. She would like to pursue a M.D./Ph.D. degree.

“I would like to gain an enhanced understanding of the human organism particularly in the field of neurology, observe the intricate connection between scientific advances and bedside medicine, and examine a broad range of pathologies and understand their molecular underpinning as this would allow for the system to be altered to reverse the detrimental effects,” said Sabir, who is mentored by Dr. Nhan Tran, head of TGen’s Brain Tumor Unit. “The Ivy research experience allows me to work alongside expert scientists at TGen to advance clinical treatments for patients, and provide a foundation for me to connect textbook learning to cutting-edge research.”

Two undergraduates are spending their 2015-16 academic year learning in TGen’s Cancer and Cell Biology Division: Heather Sonnemann, a Senior at Arizona State University who is majoring in Biological Sciences with emphasis in Genetics, Cell and Developmental Biology; and Nghia Millard, a Junior at ASU who is pursuing a double-major in Microbiology and Statistics.

“I like that I am able to spend all of my free time working in a lab that I love,” said Sonnemann, who is being mentored at TGen by Dr. Tran and Dr. Alison Roos. She hopes to continue a career in brain tumor research.

“Programs like the Ivy Internship Program are great because they emphasize the benefits that translational research gives to patients, and provide hands-on research experience in the context of ultimately helping patients,” said Millard, who also is being mentored at TGen by Dr. Tran and Dr. Harshil Dhruv.

Millard plans to earn a Ph.D. in cancer biology or immunology, and because of his experience at TGen he wants to some day run his own research lab. “My goal is to develop ideas and contribute to scientific knowledge, as well as help develop treatments that can improve a patient’s quality of life or even cure them of their disease,” he said.

Two high-school students — Tristan Neal of Paradise Valley High School, and Talia Khan of Xavier College Preparatory — have already completed their 10-week summer internships.

“Through Catherine Ivy’s vision and support, we are developing a local, highly-skilled workforce that will continue to push the boundaries of biomedical research,” said TGen President Dr. Jeffrey Trent.

For more information, please contact Brandy Wells, Manager of TGen’s Education and Outreach program, at bwells@tgen.org or 602-343-8655.

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