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Halim Salifu
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Students in the Natural Sciences Department had enriching experiences interning at corporations and in academia this summer.

Ten students obtained internships to participate in the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) program at Rutgers University under the guidance of Kenneth McGuinness, Ph.D. They focused on bioinformatics, a new field at Caldwell University. The students received stipends and transportation thanks to the STEM Advance Project, funded by a grant from the Department of Education’s Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) STEM and Articulation Program. The students who took part in the SURE internships are: Rojan Basnet, Apekshya Bhattarai, Pratishna KC, Denielle Keenan, Nicolette Nabiryo, Alyssa Negron, Kamal Kumar Sah, Halim Salifu, Anshuraj Sedai and Yarelliz Valentin.

Biology major Yarelliz Valentin’s research gave her a new outlook on biotechnology. She explored the origin of complex nanomachines involved in electron transfer during prebiotic chemical processes, to aid NASA’s mission to explore planetary environments where life could potentially arise. “I was able to have the freedom to create systems that worked and helped move research forward in a short period of time,” said Valentin ’24. Last spring she took Caldwell’s bioinformatics course, which gave her background for the internship. She looks forward to the fall semester and working with her Caldwell mentor to research proteins and their evolution. “I will continue to be thankful for the experience I have gained as it has helped me to move forward with confidence.”

Salifu, a biology major with a minor in healthcare administration, worked in the Center for Advanced Biotechnology at RWJ-Rutgers and SURE studying protein evolution using bioinformatics tools and software programs to analyze protein structure. He placed second for his poster presentation at a symposium at the end of the summer. Salifu said it was a privilege to immerse himself in the “intricate world of proteins, delving into the complexities and structural changes with the help of high resolution computers.” He is grateful for the insights he gained from the work and the opportunity to learn from distinguished professionals including his mentor Professor McGuiness.

Mariam Haroun, a biology major, was awarded a full stipend to attend the Research Intensive Summer Experience (RISE) at Rutgers, which covered her funding and housing. She focused on the effects of dopamine on specific proteins, contributing to the understanding of neurological conditions.

Nabiryo, a biology major, also participated in RISE and conducted research in cellular biology. She explored how certain proteins influence cell movement and shape, which is critical for understanding diseases like cancer. “My experience working with Dr. Martha Soto has solidified my desire to pursue an MD/PhD,” said Nabiryo. “I absolutely loved the research, and it’s made me even more excited about my future in medicine and science.”

Biology student Samuel Annan learned about the process of drug discovery while interning with the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research’s competitive summer internship program in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The program provides research training opportunities for top-tier students who have had little exposure to industry research. Annan worked with professionals at the pharmaceutical company’s research headquarters on a form of cancer therapy called radio-ligand therapy. He was excited to engage in research and use an ion-mobility spectrometry instrument, however, it was “the people,” who made the work most fulfilling, said Annan. “I could directly schedule a meeting with any scientist to learn about their lab, skills and motivation.”

Natural science students Samuel Annan and Abbas Wafa presented their research titled “Green Synthesis of Gold Nanoparticles and Its Applications: A Modern Tale of Magical Golden Eggs” at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Francisco this summer.

In addition, Annan and Abbas Wafa presented their research titled “Green Synthesis of Gold Nanoparticles (GNPs) and Its Applications: A Modern Tale of Magical Golden Eggs” at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Francisco in August. Their research mentor is Xiaolei Gao, Ph.D., assistant professor in the School of Natural Sciences. Their trip was made possible thanks to American Chemical Society travel grants and the support of the leadership at Caldwell including Ellina Chernobilsky, Ph.D.

Caldwell University’s Career Planning and Development Office provides students and alumni with the tools to explore and choose academic majors and career options, obtain career-related experience such as internships and shadowing opportunities and pursue post-graduation career plans including employment and graduate school.  If you would like to find out more about an opportunity in your field, contact: Aquinas Hall, Room 109
973-618-3290,; Geri Perret, Director,; Christine Szeluga, Assistant Director, or schedule an appointment on Handshake.

Top Photo: Halim Salifu, a biology major with minor in a healthcare administration, received second place for his poster presentation at a symposium in the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) program at Rutgers University.