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Spotlight on a HS STAR Trainee

‚ÄčChristine Ly, Holly Howarth, and Moueez Shah

Stein Institute's Jackuelyn Harris High School Summer Training in Aging Research (HS STAR) is designed to provide exceptional underrepresented high school students from The Preuss School UC San Diego with a chance to learn and practice the daily activities involved in aging research alongside a UC San Diego faculty mentor. Each summer, an enthusiastic group of The Preuss School UC San Diego children who are first in their families to strive to attend college join us for a summer aging research immersion.  

Below is a reflection on this summer's program by Moueez Shah, HS STAR trainee. Moueez is now an undergraduate student at UC San Diego. He is just at the beginning of pondering career path choices, but admits that the program inspired him a lot. 

"My dream is to become a neurosurgeon and try to help cure Alzheimer's disease," said Moueez, when he was giving his final presentation at the conclusion of the program. "My friend lost her mother to Alzheimer's at a very young age and really did not have a female model during her years growing up. This inspired me to learn more about dementia and volunteer in senior communities. HS STAR has cemented this interest and showed me that with a lot of commitment and hard work, one can pursue research that has a potential to help millions." Moueez is planning to apply to medical school after college.

"Overall HS-Star was an amazing experience from start to finish. I learned so much about science and about myself. I really enjoyed everything that was made for us to see into the medical research field as it pertains to aging. I did three different things during the program that truly made my experience incredible. 

First, we had tons of activities that we did with so many different people and so many different angles in the medical field which I thought was amazing. I also enjoyed the Introduction to Genetics lecture with Brinda Rana, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, that we went to every Tuesday and Thursday because I felt as though it gave me a glimpse of college-course teaching and learning.

Next, I enjoyed working with my student partner Christine and I loved having Sameer Shah, PhD, associate professor in Departments of Orthopaedic Surgery and Bioengineering, and Holly Howarth, PhD student, as my mentors. They truly cared for us and helped us learn so much in such little time. I overall appreciate their help in the tasks they made us do.

Third, it is the research that we were able to participate in hands on. Holly Howarth guided us throughout a Nerve Lengthening Clinical Study. The study examined two methods of surgery. Traditionally, a graft is a surgical procedure to move tissue from one part of the body to another part of the body. We were lucky to test a device developed by the Department of Orthopedics which works in a completely different way and uses axons. The study aimed to determine whether the device could produce better results such as more functionality and regeneration than the traditional method could with the ultimate goal to provide better care for patients. Both techniques were tested in both acute (short time period) and chronic (long-time period) surgeries where the synaptic nerve that controls movement below the knee was the one sliced and damaged. Christine and I were in charge of analyzing outcomes which was a very interesting task.

In conclusion, I want to thank everyone who helped organize the program because it really made my summer ten times better, and I wish I could do it again next year."