Lehigh Valley student attends NIH/NIA-sponsored aging research course

Prestigious course offered full scholarship to junior biology student

CENTER VALLEY, Pa. — Jack Yacoub spent one week in May at Xavier University of Louisiana at an advanced training course sponsored by the National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Aging, Magee-Womens Research Institute and Foundation, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Xavier University of Louisiana.

The course, titled “Frontiers in Aging and Regeneration Research (FrARR): Translating MSTEM in Aging Research from the Lab to the Clinic and Beyond,” trained and mentored promising junior and senior undergraduates from predominately underrepresented communities in sophisticated aging research and regenerative medicine technologies.

Yacoub is a rising junior at Penn State Lehigh Valley majoring in biology. Jacqueline McLaughlin, associate professor of biology at the campus, told Yacoub about the program and supported him through the application process.

“Once Dr. McLaughlin told me about the program and after reading about what the program is and how it is run, I figured it would be an amazing experience,” said Yocoub. “I was always unsure of the path I would like to take for my future and I thought attending this program may impact me and help me find my passion.”

After being accepted into this esteemed program, he was offered a full scholarship.

“I think Penn State Lehigh Valley is an underrated school when it comes to our science department. But at the program in New Orleans, I was so well educated on almost every subject and was able to fully understand almost all of the speakers’ lectures and follow their experiment,” said Yacoub. “Having Dr. McLaughlin write a recommendation letter for me to attend this program and the course 'Undergraduate Research' run by Dr. McLaughlin really gave my application a boost. ... I am so glad I attended this program, it opened my eyes to a different world of research and greatly impacted my life and goals, both inside and outside of the classroom.”

Yacoub credited his involvement at the Lehigh Valley campus — he has served as a tutor and a New Student Orientation leader — for helping to prepare him for the experience.

“Jack and I worked closely on several undergraduate research projects at Penn State Lehigh Valley, and through our interactions I came to appreciate his endless potential in STEM. I wanted him to attend a FrARR program in order to experience the critical thinking and brilliance of professional role models who have made, or who are making, breakthroughs in biomedical research,” said McLaughlin. “It was also hopeful that while gaining exposure to some of our nation's top-notch research scientists, he would come to realize his own capacity to someday perform at this level and the next steps needed to move forward. As a biology professor, I strive to uncover the best career options for each and every one of my students.”

This NIH/NIA-sponsored course was designed for junior and senior undergraduates who seek to develop into independent scientists, physicians or doctoral investigators and are both passionate about research careers in aging and regeneration and well prepared to build on their existing skills.

Group of  students

The students who attended the course "Frontiers in Aging and Regeneration Research (FrARR): Translating MSTEM in Aging Research from the Lab to the Clinic and Beyond" gathered for a group photo.

Credit: Jack Yacoub

“My favorite part of the program was being able to have conversations and learn about new experiments that scientists are performing from all over the United States,” said Yacoub. “It was very interesting learning how the scientists came to work in academia and partake in groundbreaking research. Most of the scientists did not know they were going to dedicate their whole life on research during their undergrad, and they kept emphasizing to us students that things don't always go as planned. We must learn to adjust, and never give up.”

FrARR offers dynamic training courses and career-advancement strategies that provide a fresh series of daily lecturers on emerging concepts, followed by extended discussions, laboratory research, technologically intense workshops, and informal seminars over weeklong periods. These courses are offered at Xavier University of Louisiana and Morehouse School of Medicine, according to the program’s website.


Dennille Schuler

Public Relations Specialist
Penn State Lehigh Valley

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