A group of junior students from Troy High School spent four weeks in the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS) this summer learning about cutting-edge bioanalytical technologies and how they are being used for research. This opportunity was made possible by Rensselaer and the Seymour Fox Memorial Foundation.

The relationship between Rensselaer and the foundation started in 2014, in honor of the 10th anniversary of CBIS. As a result of this partnership, the “Seymour Fox Memorial Foundation Lecture and Prize for Biotechnology Innovation” was established. The foundation provided $60,000 for four years to administer the prize. According to Bonnie Chavin, Seymour Fox Memorial Foundation president, Seymour Fox was an attorney in Troy for over 50 years. He died in 2010. “When his will was opened, we learned that he made provision for a charitable foundation,” said Chavin. “The mission was ‘to support institutions and organizations engaged in charitable acts, scientific work, and educational activities that exemplify the life, work, and spirit of justice for which he strove during his lifetime.’”

“RPI had a role in developing his ability,” Chavin said. “Mr. Fox was one of a few Troy High students selected to attend classes at RPI while finishing his high school degree. His studies were interrupted by World War II when, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the Army, was sent into combat, and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He said that since he survived, he wanted to make sure he made a contribution to the world around him. While he ultimately chose law as his career, he spoke often, with a proud smile and a youthful glint in his eye, of that short stint at RPI. He always attributed his ever-youthful curiosity, intellectual agility, and his imaginative problem-solving ability to his exciting exposure at an early age to the fascinating world of science and technology that RPI offered.”

New this year, the program gave the students the opportunity to work directly with CBIS core facility directors, including Brigitte Arduini, director of the stem cell core; Scott McCallum, director of the NMR core; Joel Morgan, director of the analytical biochemistry core; Sergey Pryshchep, director of the microscopy core, and Marimar Lopez, director of the research cores.

In addition, the high school students spent time with a group of graduate students. Samvel Avagyan, graduate student in Professor George Makhatadze’s lab, was heavily involved in this project. “As graduate students, most of our time is spent making progress on our research,” Avagyan said. “However, in between research and meetings, it was very exciting and satisfying to work with Dr. Lopez to plan the details of the Seymour Fox Foundation Summer Program. The most rewarding part of the program was being able to mentor and hopefully inspire motivated young people to take a greater interest in science.”

An awards ceremony was held at the program’s conclusion on July 21. Students created a poster to display their research results. “As we educate the next generation of students in the STEM fields, we have to make sure we motivate them and bring the research to their level,” said Lopez. “Seeing these students’ commitment to the program and their accomplishments at the award ceremony was really rewarding for everybody involved. I have to say it was a great team effort with wonderful outcomes.”

Plans are already underway for next year’s Seymour Fox Memorial Foundation Summer Program at Rensselaer. The foundation also supports a summer arts camp hosted by the Deep Listening Institute, a greenhouse project coordinated by Student Life for Troy High School students, and Professor Freddy Colon’s Project RISE.