Faculty Leadership Highlights - July 2024

Case-PREP Program

Co-Director Hua Lou, PhD

The Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program at CWRU (CasePREP) is an NIH funded program that was established in 2007 and has trained 17 cohorts totaling 103 PREP scholars. Currently, six scholars are admitted each year. CasePREP is designed to support recent diverse college graduates who are preparing for careers in biomedical research. The program offers paid research experiences with seasoned investigators in active and dynamic laboratories. In addition, PREP scholars complete innovative programming to strengthen academic preparation, increase communication skills, and complete graduate school applications. CasePREP has been highly successful and well-regarded nationally. 83.5% of scholars entered PhD or MD/PhD programs; 24.8% entered CWRU PhD or MD/PhD programs. To date, 39 scholars have earned PhD or MD/PhD degrees. Hua Lou joined the CasePREP leadership team in 2021. She is co-directing the program with Dana Crawford in PQHS. As a Co-Director, Hua is engaged in every aspect of the program, including admissions, teaching and mentoring, and overseeing the scholars’ research experience in their mentors’ labs. https://case.edu/medicine/prep/

Maryssa Shanteau-Jackson is a 2019-2020 CasePREP scholar and is currently a fourth year graduate student in Thomas LaFramboise’s lab; her research focuses primarily on the mitochondrial genome and its effect on various aspects of cancer biology including chemotherapy drug efficacy. Maryssa has written a brief synopsis about her experience in the program and its impact on her decision to pursue a PhD in the Genetics Dept.

My PREP experience was complicated – but good complicated. When you join PREP you are expected to take graduate level courses, practice journal club presentations, attend a national conference, prepare for and take the GRE. In addition I was fortunate to be able to carry out the required research part of the program in the Pharmacology department under Marcin Golczak PhD, who was a great mentor. My research focused on trying to capture the STRA6 protein bound to a small molecule at a suspected alternate binding site with Cryo-EM. I was exposed to structural biology in a way that was unavailable to me in my undergraduate experience, and was able to learn and expand my skill set with many different research techniques, including mammalian cell culture and HPLC. The activities of a PREP scholar really do prepare you for graduate study. As a grad student you have seminars, courses, and research. The research is a quite challenging in the beginning because you’re trying to build up your repertoire of background knowledge. But PREP is almost like boot-camp as it prepares you for the next steps.

In truth, my PREP experience convinced me to stay in Cleveland and at CWRU for many reasons. I had met some incredible people, and I’d started to build my professional network, including connecting with Jason Mears PhD whose lab focuses on investigating proteins that regulate mitochondrial dynamics. Dr Mears now is on my thesis committee because of the relationship I built with him during my PREP experience and the happenstance that I started doing mitochondrial research

From my research endeavors during my PREP experience, I knew protein research was likely not my avenue and neither was ocular research. But I still loved cancer and genetics, which ultimately led me to my current position as a graduate student in the LaFramboise lab. The combination of in silico work together with my wet bench training has prepared me to be a well-rounded scientist with many important soft skills that I can leverage for career opportunities when I finish my graduate training. I owe that in part to my Case-PREP experience.