SUPER students dedicate summer to researching eye diseases at OU

While many students take the summer break to relax and regroup, six Oakland University students have spent it researching the causes of different eye diseases. The students are using the latest scientific innovations in technology to solve very human problems.

Oakland University’s Summer Undergraduate Program in Eye Research, or SUPER, is a highly selective 12-week program that sees students working 30 hours a week in the university’s lab. Faculty members from OU’s Eye Research Institute offer guidance. Students also attend a weekly Vision Science seminar conducted by Eye Research Institute and Beaumont Ophthalmology faculty.

Various eye diseases researched include glaucoma, cataracts, and retinitis pimentos.

Biology senior Obadah Asbahi researched how the expression of the PS6 cell correlates with proper retinal function.

Bioengineering senior Dominic Mier explored how alpha-crystallin proteins play a role in the formation of cataracts.

Health Sciences senior Kaylee Moyer examined VEGF, a growth factor that can impair intercellular signaling, which then leads to diseases like diabetic retinopathy.

Biomedical Sciences senior Christian Rizza sought to craft new research experiments by using computer simulation to learn how the peripherin-2/rds protein functions in the eye.

Biochemistry senior Sharon Tan also focused on the peripherin-2/rds protein, instead examining a mutation that causes photoreceptor death in the retina.

Biology senior Peter Gaied researched amyloid fibrils, protein aggregates with links to dementia, and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

"The SUPER program was valuable because it taught me how to think like a scientist," says Gaied.

"It’s very rewarding to be involved in something that I’m passionate about and also to realize that the discoveries we are making may lead to a breakthrough that could change the world."

SUPER students at the Oakland County-based university also received a research fellowship, and professional speaking and presentation training.

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MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.
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