Trans-Atlantic mentoring in NSURP 2021

Another pandemic-summer that wreaked havoc on opportunities of young scientists to not only enrich their learning but also provide real-world experience that enables them to put everything they have learned into action. Since many research institutions cancelled formal summer research experience programs, we were very excited to see that NSURP came back this year.

“NSURP is a community-driven initiative to create rewarding remote summer research opportunities for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and Latinx undergraduate students in the microbial sciences.”

However, this year the core NSURP team of microbiologists (Dr. Michael D. L. Johnson, Dr. David A. Baltrus and Dr. Jennifer Gardy) that founded NSURP last year, managed to provide full-time paid internships through various sponsorships. And as you can read here, we truly enjoyed being part of the NSURP community last year. So we did not doubt for a second when we received the invitation to submit a project again and be matched with an enthusiastic mentee. And what a mentee? Jocelyn absolutely blew us away with her never-ending enthusiasm, out-of-the-box thinking and critical researcher-mindset.

Just like last year, we shaped the project together with the student based on the Lebeerlab research lines, my PhD and their interest. At the Lebeerlab, we truly believe that a hands-on approach to guiding students exponentially helps them to master technical and soft skills, gain essential knowledge and build a network. Together with partners-in-crime, post-doc Irina Spacova and prof. Sarah Lebeer we worked out the framework of the project and left plenty space for Jocelyn to be scientifically creative.

Again, I’m writing this blogpost as a super proud mentor!! Jocelyn truly gave it her all and delivered an exquisite end result. I genuinely enjoyed seeing her spark for microbiome research lit brighter and brighter each week. Just like last year, Jocelyn got a virtual “Welcome to our lab”-tour (inspired by MTV Cribs), met some lab members, gracefully presented her work in the Applied & Environmental Microbiology-section, and made a poster for upcoming conferences.  

Jocelyn, I’m wishing you very best for all your future endeavors and hope all your dreams come true. I also hope to see you soon in real-life, which totally gave me a déjà vu to saying the exact same thing last year. So maybe I should get to it and finally cross the pond 😊

Again a major thanks to the organizing committee of NSURP. I truly appreciate all the effort and organization that went into making this possible. #NoLabNoProblem

Name: Jocelyn De Paz
Affiliation: Suffolk University Boston
Title project: The Influence of Riboflavin-Producing Bacteria on Women’s Health

Jocelyn’s testimony

“This summer I was admitted into NSURP and was matched with my mentor Sarah Ahannach at the University of Antwerp. When I got my acceptance email and connected with Sarah, I realized I had obtained my dream job. The reason being that I was not only going to complete my work on the human microbiome, but I also was going to assist in destigmatizing vaginal health. Both my passion for science and women’s health was tied into one, it presented me with a new avenue on how I could continue my future studies.

Within the program I assisted a clinical study for the Isala Project, titled: ‘Assessing Lactobacilli Viability, and Proliferation within the Female Microbiome.’ Completing this project, I learned much about the workflow of intervention studies from the planning to the methods on how samples are collected and analyzed. I never thought that I was going to have the chance to create a clinical trial proposal so early on in my career. I truly appreciate all the opportunities Sarah and the Lebeer lab had to offer and the guidance they have given me. I am honored to continue to work with them on completing a mini literature review in collaboration with another student entering the lab.

Actively working on these two projects I gained so much knowledge about vaginal health and how studies on the female microbiome and female health are highly needed. These projects also exposed me to the ways I could grow my career in microbiology to continue expanding the knowledge on women’s health. I obtained amazing soft skills that I am eager to continue utilizing and expanding as I pursue my graduate school career. I will always be grateful for this program as it gave me the chance to grow as scientist and a mentee. I want to give a great thank you to everyone that made all this possible. A special thank you to prof. Sarah Lebeer, dr. Irina Spacova, and Sarah Ahannach for all their assistance, support, and great mentoring, I am eager to continue working with you all within the upcoming months!”