SRF Postbaccalaureate Fellowship Program

The SRF Postbaccalaureate Fellowship Program offers recent graduates a gap year option where they can strengthen their research and communication skills in preparation for such opportunities as graduate programs, medical programs, and biotech positions. Like the SRF Summer Scholars Program, the goal of the Postbaccalaureate Fellowship Program includes assignments and training that hones writing and presentation skills. These training exercises are completed within the framework of a research project that the Fellow will be tasked with completing under the guidance of a scientific mentor.

Play Video

Fellowship Program Training Goals

SRF Education undergraduate programs primarily are designed to address two pressing needs in STEM education: the availability of novel, inquiry-based research opportunities and scientific communication skills. Whether a student plans to pursue postgraduate studies or apply for a research position at a pharmaceutical company, practical experience is key. However, research opportunities are limited at some colleges, and specific fields of research, such as tissue engineering, may be completely absent.

SRF Education sets itself apart from many other training programs with its focus on the development of scientific communication skills in addition to enhancing laboratory and critical thinking skills. Over the course of its educational programs, participants are guided through practical writing assignments that simulate documents scientists are often asked to produce, such as grant proposals. The communication training culminates in a formal presentation at a symposium where participants present the results of their work to their peers and mentors.

Program Learning Objectives Include:

  • Planning and executing an independent research project
  • Learning new technical skills
  • Explaining scientific concepts to a non-scientific audience
  • Submitting a simple grant proposal
  • Presenting results to peers in a formal scientific symposium

Qualifications

  1. Applicants should have some biologically-related prior research experience.
  2. Although GPA will be a consideration, there are no formal GPA requirements.
  3. There are no specific major requirements. Students of any major may apply, provided they can demonstrate experience relevant to the project in question.
  4. As noted in the Eligibility Requirements section, applicants who have earned their bachelor’s degree within the past 2 years are eligible to apply. This year, graduates from the classes of 2019, 2020, and 2021 are eligible to apply.
  5. Only international students who can use optional practical training (OPT) work authorization can apply.

Important Dates

  1. The online application will be available on November 2, 2020.
  2. Completed applications are due at NOON PST on Wednesday, February 17, 2021 (12 pm PST 2/17/21). Be sure to ask for your letter of recommendation well in advance to provide sufficient time for it to be submitted.
  3. Finalists will be contacted by Friday, April 30, 2021.

Start Date and Duration

  1. The fellowship will start on Wednesday, September 1, 2021, but fellows must be available for HR paperwork on Tuesday, August 31, 2021.
  2. The fellowship will last 9 months and end on Tuesday, May 31, 2022.

Compensation

  1. A single stipend will be provided to cover room and board costs.
  2. Stipend rates will be based upon levels used by government agencies, such as the NIH and NSF.
  3. Fellows will be eligible for benefits after the first 3 months of employment.

Housing

  1. Participants in the program will need to locate their own housing. Advice can be provided by SRF and the host lab. A stipend will be provided to cover room and board costs.

Review the following to confirm your eligibility to participate in the program:

  1. This program is designed for recent college graduates, who earned their bachelor’s degree within the past two years prior to the date they begin the program. For instance, the 2021 class of Postbaccalaureate Fellows will consist of graduates of the classes of 2019, 2020, or 2021.
  2. Students currently enrolled in a master’s, doctoral, medical, or similar postgraduate degree granting program are ineligible to apply. Similarly, any applicant who has already earned a postgraduate degree is ineligible to apply.
  3. Participants in the program also must be able to legally work in the U.S. via citizenship, permanent residency, or optional practical training (OPT). NOTE: Only international students who can use OPT work authorization can apply. Similar programs that fulfill the work visa requirement will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  4. It is strongly recommended that students using OPT work authorization consult their on-campus advisors prior to application submission to ensure the OPT application is submitted in a timely fashion to avoid a delayed start to the program should an offer be made. You can learn more about OPT requirements here.

If you have any questions regarding your eligibility for the program, you may contact SRF Director of Education Gregory Chin at [email protected].

Below is an alphabetical list of the Principal Investigators (PIs) and their 2021 Postbaccalaureate Fellowship research projects.

Principal Investigator: Julie Andersen, PhD

Buck Institute for Research on Aging

Start Date: September

Aß oligomers (AßO) are the toxic species thought by many to drive Alzheimer’s Disease. However, how AßO can drive neurodegeneration has been a long-standing debate that is as of yet unresolved. On the other hand, the study of senescence within the central nervous system (CNS) has recently began to emerge. Senescent cells can be deleterious by developing the senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP), which includes the release of inflammatory and oxidative factors. Senescence can also propagate autonomously by secondary senescence. Finally, outside of the brain, senescent cells can be cleared by natural killer cells, part of the innate immune system.

 

Our hypothesis is that AßO-induced senescence results in the SASP, causing inflammation, oxidative and proteotoxic stress conducive to cognitive impairment. Secondary senescence through neuronal projections can explain the spread of pathology. Finally, natural killer cell infiltration into the brain parenchyma amidst loss of blood brain barrier integrity can result in widespread senescent cell killing, potentially marking the onset of neuronal death in clinical AD. To test our hypotheses, we are assessing AßO-induced senescence in primary neuron cultures and natural killer cell co-cultures using histo-cytometry: which includes immunocytochemistry, spectral scanning plus linear unmixing confocal imaging, and image-data processing with IMARIS and FlowJo.

Principal Investigator: Amutha Boominathan, PhD

SRF Research Center

Start Date: September

Mitochondria are the power plants of the cell and are also the only cellular organelle in mammals that possess their own DNA. In humans, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) codes for 13 important proteins, which all assemble into the oxidative phosphorylation relay. Mutations in mtDNA occur as a consequence of constant exposure to reactive oxygen species produced by the mitochondrial energy generation process as well as mistakes in mtDNA replication. These mutations accumulate over time due to inefficient repair mechanisms and compromised respiratory chain function. Inherited and acquired mutations in mtDNA result in impaired energy generation and are the cause for several pathologies, such as Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON), Myoclonic Epilepsy with Ragged Red Fibers (MERRF), Kearns-Sayre syndrome, and Leigh syndrome.

 

At SENS Research Foundation, we are in the early stages of creating an exciting and innovative system to repair mitochondrial mutations. Using the allotopic approach, we have identified specific targeting elements/ sequences that can improve expression of these essential genes from the nuclear DNA and their transport to the correct location in mitochondria. The Summer Scholar selected will use a computational approach to design and test a library of constructs in model patient cell lines with specific mutations to mtDNA. The ability of re-engineered genes to rescue function will be evaluated through various techniques, such as protein gels, qPCR, and activity assays, with the potential of extending the studies to animal models.

Principal Investigator: Jennifer Garrison, PhD

Buck Institute for Research on Aging

Start Date: September

The functions of the brain emerge from communication between neurons. The language of neuronal communication is mediated by chemicals that are released from one neuron and sensed by another. These chemical signals consistent of both “fast acting” neurotransmitters, as well as more than 200 neuromodulators that act on longer timescales. Neuropeptides are the largest and most diverse class of neuromodulators, and they control vital processes like energy homeostasis, as well as motivational and emotional states such as sleep, arousal, pain, stress, and mood. Yet, we still lack a clear understanding of how neuropeptides generate the diverse behavioral outputs of the brain. In particular, the molecular mechanisms by which neuropeptides are turned ‘off’ once they have been released from a neuron are not well understood. To address this challenge, we are systematically identifying neuropeptidases, the enzymes that turn off neuropeptide signaling, and mapping which neuropeptides they inactivate. We are seeking undergraduate student researchers to assist a postdoctoral scholar in the lab to characterize identified neuropeptidases and manipulate their expression within specific cell types to determine their role(s) in behavior and aging.

 

Desired Skills or Experience:  Completed coursework in biology, biochemistry, chemistry, genetics, and neuroscience desired but not necessary. Familiarity and proficiency with the following techniques desirable: C. elegans maintenance, PCR, cloning, microscopy, mass spectrometry.

Principal Investigator: Amit Sharma, PhD

SRF Research Center

Start Date: September

Senescent cells are characterized by an irreversible arrest of the cell cycle. They secrete a unique milieu of pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, and growth factors collectively referred to as the senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP). These cells have been implicated in a large number of age-related diseases, and recent efforts to develop therapeutic interventions are centered around either selectively eliminating senescent cells (senolytics) or reducing SASP secretion (senomorphics). While these approaches present two possible avenues for reducing senescent cells’ impact, they still lack specificity for their intended target.

 

We focus on developing therapeutic interventions to selectively eliminate senescent cells by utilizing innate immune cells like Natural Killer (NK) cells. These innate immune cells have evolved to selectively induce apoptosis in target cells that express ligands, such as senescent cells. However, recent studies have shown that some senescent cells employ mechanisms to escape NK-mediated clearance, while ‘aged’ NK cells become less efficient at eliminating target cells.

 

The laboratory focuses on enhancing the targeted elimination of senescent cells by NK cells. We are pursuing three main avenues of research:

  1. Investigate the mechanisms involved in the age-dependent loss in senescent cells’ immune surveillance by NK cells.
  2. Develop approaches to block or remove factors produced by senescent cells to escape immune clearance.
  3. Identify unique surface makers on senescent cells for enhanced targeted elimination by NK cells or modified NK cells.

These approaches will afford a better understanding of interactions between NK cells and senescent cells in the context of aging and help develop novel therapeutic interventions for enhanced elimination of senescent cells.

Principal Investigator: Evan Snyder, MD, PhD

Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine

Start Date: September

We believe the study of stem cell biology will provide insights into many areas: developmental biology, homeostasis in the normal adult, and recovery from injury. Indeed, past and current research has already produced data in these areas that would have been difficult or impossible via any other vehicle. We have engaged in a multidisciplinary approach, simultaneously exploring the basic biology of stem cells, their role throughout the lifetime of an individual, as well as their therapeutic potential. We have taken two disparate organ systems, the brain and the lung, and are discovering parallels in their development, response to infections and molecular functions. Taken together, these bodies of knowledge will glean the greatest benefit for scientists and, most importantly, for patients. All of our research to date has been performed in human stem cells and verified in animal models with the ultimate goal of bringing them to clinical trials as soon as possible.

Possible research project options include:

  1. Model brain development using human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs).
  2. Model lung development using human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs).
  3. Search for molecules that confer a resistance to age-related degeneration.
  4. Determine the effects of tobacco related products on lung stem cells and aging.
  5. Discover what directs the homing of neural stem cells to areas of pathology.
  6. Explore how SARS-CoV-2 impacts lung and brain cells.

Principal Investigator: Michael Snyder, PhD

Stanford University

Start Date: September

The Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) project funded by NIH common fund has sequenced thousands of human tissue samples from around 1000 people and 56 different types of organs. One of the main aims is to understand the association of genetic variations to phenotypes.  However, the massive data generated by GTEx not only can provide information to explain the variations but also can be used to study aging. The GTEx cohort contains all age groups, and the data provides molecular profiles from multi-omics. Most of the previous aging studies were done using animal models or with very limited clinic data. For a few large-scale studies, they are mainly based on genomic information in general. As part of the GTEx project, our lab has sequenced the proteome of multiple organs from many individuals.  Compared to genomics, proteomics is closer to phenotype and can provide direct evidence. Integrating proteomics information with other omics can provide a more comprehensive molecular profile for the study of aging at organ level. However, integrating information from multi-omics is a daunting task. It requires knowledge from both domains and also needs sophisticated mathematical models. We believe results from this study will greatly advance the understanding of aging.

– The 2021 SRF Postbaccalaureate Fellowship Program application period will open on Monday, November 2, 2020. –

The 2021 SRF Postbaccalaureate Fellowship Program application period is now open.

Applications will be accepted until noon PST Wednesday, February 17, 2021 (12pm PST 2/17/21).
Please be sure to download the recommendation instructions and give your
recommender(s) ample time to submit your letter of recommendation by the deadline.

Other SRF Education Opportunities

Summer Scholars Program

Offering undergraduate students the opportunity to conduct biomedical research to combat diseases of aging under the guidance of a scientific mentor and emphasizing the development of laboratory and communication skills to develop well-rounded future scientists.

Use of this Web site constitutes acceptance of the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

© 2020 SENS Research Foundation – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED