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From the Classroom to Life-Saving Research

MMRL Teams with UC for Summer Fellowship Program

Written By Colleen Bierstine '15, PR Intern

Heather McManus '14 landed prestigious fellowship in molecular cardiac research


Utica, NY (07/30/2014)
- Utica College’s partnership with the Masonic Medical Research Lab (MMRL) creates an invaluable learning opportunity for students.

The MMRL allows students of biology, physiology, molecular biology, chemistry, medicine and other life sciences to participate in research under staff guidance. By working closely with Utica College and other colleges nationwide, the program provides the perfect bridge from learning in the classroom to hands-on experience in a biomedical research institute.

“The Summer Fellowship Program gives talented students of the life sciences the chance to experience the operation of an internationally-renowned scientific research institute,” said Dr. Daniel Barr, assistant professor of biochemistry at Utica College. “We are very fortunate that some of our students get to work alongside these accomplished scientists and see firsthand how medical and scientific techniques can be used to better understand disease and to find new treatments and cures.”

Recent projections of significant shortages of medical researchers by the turn of the century have heightened the need for programs such as MMRL’s Summer Fellowship Program in which students can become acquainted with research and the opportunities available in the biomedical sciences. By pairing the experience students garner from the program with the extremely personalized training and innovative curriculum at UC, students are better prepared for the field of their choice.

Heather McManus, who recently graduated from UC with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, participated in the program this summer.

“Heather started with us in January as part of her senior research project at UC and continued with us through our Summer Fellowship Program. She has been isolating DNA from patient samples and looking for mutations in a gene that regulates the transient outward potassium current in heart cells. Alterations in this current are thought to contribute to Sudden Cardiac Death syndromes including Brugada Syndrome and Early Repolarization Syndrome,” said Dr. Matthew Betzenhauser, Assistant Director of Research and Director of the Summer Fellowship Program at MMRL.

The project was initiated through an ongoing collaboration between Daniel Barr at UC and Hector Barajas-Martinez and Dan Hu at the MMRL. Drs. Barr, Barajas and Hu have collaborated in the past on a project that yielded a publication in the Public Library of Science, Betzenhauser said.

As the only major biomedical research facility in the greater Utica and Mohawk Valley area, the MMRL has long considered it an important responsibility to provide undergraduate research opportunities for interested students. A major component of that effort is the MMRL Summer Research Fellowship that Heather also participated in. Thus far, more than 400 students have participated in the program since its inception in 1960. The program is fully funded by community members, businesses and Masonic Lodges.

The Masonic Medical Research Laboratory was established in 1958 as a biomedical research facility. Since its inception, it has gained international prominence for its achievements and contributions to science and medicine. The MMRL's current focus is in the areas of: Experimental Cardiology, Molecular Genetics, Molecular Biology and Stem Cell Technology.

The biochemistry major at UC gives students a solid understanding of the fundamental building blocks of life, preparing them for a fulfilling career in a field on the leading edge of human knowledge.

Supported by exceptional faculty and advanced instrumentation, the program is modeled on a course of study recommended by the American Chemical Society and places significant emphasis on the study of the molecules and reactions of life processes. It is intended for students who wish to study and work in a discipline at the interface of biology and chemistry.

For more information about the Summer Fellowship Program, visit

About Utica College – Utica College, founded in 1946, is a comprehensive private institution offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. The College, located in upstate central New York, approximately 90 miles west of Albany and 50 miles east of Syracuse, currently enrolls more than 4,000 students in 36 undergraduate majors, 27 minors, 21 graduate, pre-professional and special programs.

About The Masonic Medical Research Laboratory - The Masonic Medical Research Laboratory is a not-for-profit institute founded by the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons in the State of New York in 1958 and dedicated to improving the health and quality of life for all. The institute’s primary mission is to conduct high quality basic and clinical research aimed at generating knowledge and information necessary for development of the medical cures and treatments of tomorrow. The Laboratory is also committed to providing education and training to basic scientists, clinical researchers and students who will perpetuate and extend the fight against disease. Please visit  to learn more about research at the MMRL or search for the MMRL on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn.


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