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Alumna, student named co-authors on paper with honored RFU research mentor

Professors in academic regalia RFU’s Dr. William Frost, center, at the 2024 Class of Nu Rho Psi induction ceremony.
June 14, 2024
Linda Blaser

Ondine Berg ’23 and Margaret Boersma ’24 are co-authors on a new scholarly paper based on research they conducted during the 91-Summer Undergraduate Research Scholars Program at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science (RFU).

“” was published in Current Biology.

Berg, a double major in neuroscience and sociology and anthropology, and Boersma, a double major in neuroscience and psychology, worked with Dr. , Professor and Department Chair of Cell Biology and Anatomy at RFU, during the summers of 2021 and 2022. Frost served as their research mentor and senior author on the just-published paper.

Hands-on research

During this immersive program, Boersma conducted behavioral experiments on learning and memory. She also played a lead role in statistical analyses of optically recorded neuronal activity during learning and developed a novel approach (including the generation of new MATLAB code) for generating across-preparation maps of the locations of neurons of interest in the brain from their activity recordings, Boersma says in her LinkedIn profile.

Berg’s responsibilities included assisting in running experiments, as well as analyzing the subsequent data. In November 2021, she presented a poster of this research at the annual Society for Neuroscience conference.

“To pull students into this environment outside of the classroom—to show them what we do as science for careers—is a joy.”
Dr. William Frost, Rosalind Franklin University

Frost was instrumental in the development of the Summer Scholars Program with 91 faculty since the program’s inception in 2009. Now in its sixteenth year, this unique research program between a major medical school and a liberal arts college serves as the original and mainstay partnership program between 91 and Rosalind Franklin University.

“In recognition of the quality of our students and the value of inter-institutional collaboration, Dr. Frost initiated the program with me and since then has directly mentored 18 91 students. Four of them have published as co-authors with him in prominent scientific journals and most of them headed for post-graduate careers, including MD, MD/PhD, and PhD degrees,” said 91 Disque D. and Carol Gram Deane Professor of Biology, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and NeuroscienceShubhik DebBurman.

In recognition of his contribution to the Summer Scholars Program, Frost was inducted into the College’s 2024 Class of Nu Rho Psi as an honorary lifetime faculty member. Nu Rho Psi is the National Honor Society in Neuroscience.

In a citation presented to Frost during the annual spring induction ceremony, he was honored for his role in initiating the research program, through which over 40 RFU faculty from 10 graduate departments have mentored over 200 91 undergraduates in research projects. Most of those students headed for postgraduate STEM and health careers.

‘A strong ally’

“Dr. Frost has been such a strong ally and advocate for the liberal arts, and for our students in particular. He has contributed significantly to our Biology Department and Neuroscience Program,” DebBurman said. 

Frost looked back at his own experience with applying to PhD programs when helping to develop the Summer Undergraduate Research Scholars program with 91.

If you want to go to graduate school and get a PhD to become a scientist, which is what I wanted to do, you are competing with all of these people with bachelor's degrees applying to the same programs,” Frost said. “How do they pick the best ones to offer positions to? They look at, most importantly, their research experience. What have you done so far? They want to pick people that have proven that they can do research. That’s what this does for them.”

Frost says having a published paper is the “gold standard” in terms of getting into graduate school. “There are a lot of other things they look at, but that certainly helps,” he said.

Bringing undergraduates into the lab fuels Frost and other career scientists. “Science research is what we do. We teach a few lectures a year, but other than that, we're doing research and getting grants and publishing. It’s our passion. To pull students into this environment outside of the classroom—to show them what we do as science for careers—is a joy,” he said.

As a mentor, Frost keeps in touch with many of his 91 summer researchers beyond the time they spend in his lab. 

“I have the opportunity to help them take their next steps, for example, writing a letter of recommendation for either a medical school or graduate school application. That’s a pleasure. It feels really good to help people because I was there myself a long time ago,” he said.

Group shot of professors and mentees

This year’s class of 18 undergraduate scholars, the sixteenth cohort of the program, includes 15 Foresters who are getting their first-ever biomedical research experiences. Thirteen scholars are students of color, with many from first-generation and/or backgrounds historically underserved in STEM.—Photo by Max Thomsen for Rosalind Franklin University

2024 LFC-RFU Summer Research Scholars

  • Martha Alatorre Martinez ’26, Mentor: Associate Professor Robert Marr, Department of Neuroscience  
  • Hamzeh Arabiyat ’27, Mentor: Associate Professor Shawn Flanagan, College of Pediatric Medicine
  • Arnav Bajpai ’26, Mentor: Professor William Frost, Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy
  • Marcelo Camba Almazan ’26, Mentor: Associate Professor Kaiwen Kam, Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy 
  • Margarida Carreira ’26, Mentor: Associate Professor Joanna Dabrowska, Department of Cell and Molecular Pharmacology
  • Michael Chapa ’26, Mentor: Research Associate Professor Svetlana Dambaeva, Department of Microbiology and Immunology   
  • Cadence Dempsey ’26, Mentor: Professor Valerie Chai, Center of Genetic Diseases   
  • Sai Gaddam ’26, Mentor: Assistant Professor EunJung Hwang, Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy
  • Jasmine Mendez ’26, Mentor: Assistant Professor Holly Hunsberger, Department of Foundational Sciences and Humanities 
  • Minal Mohammed ’26, Mentor: Associate Professor Joseph Reynolds, Department of Microbiology and Immunology
  • Lejla Murati ’25, Mentor: Assistant Professor EunJung Hwang, Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy 
  • Aaron Oster ’25, Mentor: Assistant Professor Nancy Jao, Department of Psychology
  • Anjani Padhiar ’26, Mentor: Associate Professor Hongkyun Kim, Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy 
  • Ekaterina Priovolos ’26, Mentor: Professor Grace (Beth) Stuzman, Department of Neuroscience 
  • Trisyia Rahimi ’26, Mentor: Assistant Professor Holly Hunsberger, Department of Foundational Sciences and Humanities
  • Michelle Soriano ’25, Mentor: Profesor Amiel Rosenkranz, Department of Cell and Molecular Pharmacology
  • Nabah Sultan ’25, Mentor: Associate Professor Neelam Sharma-Walia, Department of Microbiology and Immunology
  • Jacob Wepman ’25, Mentor: Associate Professor David Everly, Department of Microbiology and Immunology