COVID-19 Motivates Researchers in Utica Medical Fellowship Program

Vaea Salt-Bernard is from New Zealand and studying at SUNY Oswego.

“Life is good,” he said.

Salt-Bernard is an intern at Masonic Medical Research Institute. He fell in love with chemistry while in high school.

“My mother said to me, ‘You know, you might as well do something with chemistry to help people.’ I was like, ‘Why not?,’” said Salt-Bernard.

 


What You Need To Know

  • The Masonic Medical Research Institute resumed their Summer Fellowship Program this year after taking a hiatus due to the pandemic
  • Nine students from schools across the state are working alongside the institute’s scientists
  • The students are graduating July 29

He’s not the only college student hoping to help people, and he’s not the only one working alongside the institute’s scientists this summer.

Students from across the state are participating in the Summer Fellowship Program.

“My goal is to one day become a research scientist,” said University at Albany student Emily Marshall. “So being able to be in this lab has been really beneficial. I’ve been able to learn a lot of the techniques.”

Marshall is working with DNA fragments, studying the effect of a gene’s mutation on the heart.

“I’m kind of still trying to figure out my specialty, but now, cardiovascular disease is one of the things I’m considering,” she said.

Joseph Hoskins hopes to one day study genetic diseases that aren’t heavily researched. As a summer fellow, he’s studying COVID’s impact on the heart.

“It was very interesting to come in as a student and have work that’s already having real world implications,” said Hoskins, an Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Services student.

Salt-Bernard, Marshall and Hoskins say COVID has motivated them in their work.

“It’s certainly made me want to accelerate my career a little bit so I can get into some of the more important science, and get through all of the schooling and into the actual research so I can start helping,” Hoskins said.

“It definitely pushes you to want to continue to research and figure out why these certain diseases are happening,” Marshall said.

“Hopefully, one day I’ll work for a company,” said Salt-Bernard. “Or who knows? I might find a stronger vaccine one day.”

The summer fellowship program is 10 weeks long.

The students are scheduled to graduate from the program on July 29.