This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

UB to offer undergraduates summer research program

Published: January 27, 2005

Reporter Contributor

Undergraduates from Western New York will have an opportunity this summer to participate in the inaugural session of a new biomedical-research training program at UB funded by a $600,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The Summer Research Institute for Biomedical Materials Science and Engineering (RIBSE) is aimed at increasing the pool of college graduates interested in careers in biomedical research. The program is one of only six funded nationally by the NIH in 2004 under its "Roadmap" initiative for prioritizing medical research in the 21st century. The grant will fund tuition, research costs and stipends for the participants, who are being recruited from all the baccalaureate-granting institutions in the region.

Students will take part in an intensive, 10-week program that combines lectures, seminars, research ethics and laboratory demonstrations with team-based laboratory research to introduce them to facets of interdisciplinary research that go beyond the disciplinary-based approaches in which all students are grounded. The focus of the project will be tissue engineering.

RIBSE will be directed by Joseph A. Gardella, Jr., professor in the Department of Chemistry and associate dean for external affairs in the College of Arts and Sciences. For the past four years, Gardella has been providing research opportunities for undergraduates through the Community Linked Interdisciplinary Research (CLIR) program, a comprehensive, undergraduate research and service learning program funded by a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

"A portion of the CLIR program has been dedicated to interdisciplinary environmental science and public participation—developing projects with students collaborating across science, engineering, social sciences, law, policy and planning," Gardella says. "Melding teams of students from diverse disciplinary backgrounds to tackle complex environmental projects has much in common with the interdisciplinary aspects of tissue engineering in that students educated in seemingly similar disciplines, like cell and molecular biology, chemistry, bioengineering, etc., still need to develop an appreciation of the different skills each brings to the study of tissue engineering.

"Our strategy in (the RIBSE) program—to construct cooperative teams of students who rotate among very different laboratory experiences—should provide a capstone research experience to prepare them for graduate studies and research in tissue engineering."

While the structure of RIBSE is modeled after the CLIR program, its research focus is firmly rooted in an existing research program led by Wesley L. Hicks, associate professor of otolaryngology and neurosurgery in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and attending surgeon in the Department of Head and Neck Surgery at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. Hicks leads a tissue engineering group composed of UB and Roswell Park scientists investigating wound healing and organ repair using respiratory epithelium and the large conducting airway (wind pipe) as a working model.

This research program will provide the framework within which RIBSE students will participate.

"Tissue engineering is one of the new frontiers of medicine," Hicks explains. "It integrates biology, engineering and medicine with the intent of restoring organs and or tissue damaged by injury, disease and or congenital abnormality."

Bruce Holm, UB senior vice provost and executive director of the Buffalo Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences, agrees with Hicks.

"Tissue engineering and systems biology have emerged as two of the most important interdisciplinary areas in the post-genomic era," Holms says. He also notes that the RIBSE program "will provide a key local opportunity for students to gain training in (tissue engineering). This program integrates perfectly with areas of biomedical research already being conducted in the new Life Sciences Complex on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus."

Students interested in applying to the program should go to