Mount Sinai Skin Biology and Diseases Resource-Based Center (SBDRC)

Mount Sinai Skin Scholars Program

SBDRC has established the Mount Sinai Skin Scholars Program in partnership with Icahn Mount Sinai’s Center for Excellence in Youth Education. This program provides underserved minority East Harlem high school students with didactic teaching and hands-on laboratory experience in skin biology and diseases research. The Director of the Mount Sinai Skin Scholars Program is Sarah E. Millar, PhD and the Associate Director is Kenya Townsend.

Each fall, the program recruits 10th grade students through a long-standing formal Memorandum of Agreement between the Center for Excellence in Youth Education and the Manhattan Center for Science and Math High School, a local low-resource minority high school. Students nominated by their science teacher submit a short essay describing their interest in a biomedical career, their current transcript, and answers to science knowledge questions. Applications are evaluated by a faculty committee organized by Dr. Miller.

The program includes:

  • Summer preparatory course. Rising juniors participate in a six-week, 150-hour summer course including didactic lectures on basic concepts in molecular biology and skin biology and diseases with presentations from SBDRC Resource Core Directors and volunteers; hands-on training in basic laboratory skills; culturing experiments to learn about the skin microbiome; viewing of histological sections of skin diseases; visiting core labs; and meeting with dermatology patient volunteers who speak about their skin conditions and treatment. The goal is to interest students in skin research and prepare them for SBDRC lab internships. Students receive a stipend to support their living expenses.
  • Internships in SBDRC laboratories. Students who complete the prep course are offered paid six-week internships in SBDRC laboratories the following summer to carry out a research project under the guidance of an SBDRC trainee; allowing students to “act as scientists” enhances their attitudes to science and likelihood of pursuing higher education. Students attend lectures from SBDRC faculty and trainees on topics relevant to skin research, a presentation on college applications and preparedness, and social events with minority graduate students. Students maintain laboratory notebooks, give 10-minute Powerpoint presentations, and write a short research paper on their project at the end of the summer.

Testimonials from participants of the Mount Sinai Skin Scholars program:

  • “Thank you, Dr.Millar and Dr.Ezhkova for your presentation on the skin and hair. I enjoyed learning about the WNT signaling pathways and the studies which are being conducted in your lab and other labs. I found it very interesting that abnormal levels of one protein,DKK2, can cause excess growth or lack of hair growth in mice. Thanks again!” – Raymon

  • “I was privileged enough to participate in a few sessions on dermatology and starting off with very little knowledge on the skin and skin diseases, I feel like I was able to learn a lot in a short time. I appreciated having an opportunity to hear from various experts who were passionate about their field and and work. I was inspired by all the various ways you can participate in making a difference in science and health and I hope students that come after me get this same chance!” – Orlena

  • “ Thank you to Dr. Miller, Dr. Ezhkova, Dr. Bowcock, Dr. Ji, and Dr. Segre for giving us wonderful presentations about skin disease and cancers. As a high school student, I feel that I was able to understand concepts way beyond my level when it was explained so well. Although I previously knew nothing and wasn't particularly interested in skin and its microbiome, these presentations changed my mind.” – Md

  • “The skin presentations were a really fun and exciting opportunity to sit through and learn about the anatomy of skin, the various skin diseases, and the relationship of skin to the human body in general. I really liked their way of breaking down complicated diseases and pathways using simple terms and analogies. All the topics presented in the presentations are important and relevant to what some people go through in their daily lives.” – Kehaploy

  • “I have worked in a skin lab over the summer and as a senior in high school and I can without a doubt say it has been an irreplaceable experience. I worked in the Millar lab researching the role of Wnt inhibitors in hair follicle formation in the skin. I not only got to learn about these complex topics but also became proficient in conducting protocols and presenting my work in a professional setting. One of the highlights was knowing that the work I do in the lab had actual applications and had an impact on the understanding of a broader topic. Furthermore, the professional but kind setting of my lab made me excited to step into the lab every day. It has ignited a passion in me to work in a research lab for my future career.” –   Mariama

  • “When I first learned that I would be working at the Ezhkova lab over the summer and throughout my senior year, I was worried that I would not be able to keep up with all the intensive work that the lab would be doing. When I arrived, however, Dr. Ezhkova, my mentor Maria, and all the other lab members were super friendly and helpful, contributing to an incredibly welcoming and fun lab environment. For the past eight months, I have been working with Maria to study the role of the chromatin modifier BAP1 in embryonic skin development, and in the process have learned a lot about the skin, epigenetics, and different laboratory protocols. Through it all, Maria has been an amazing teacher and has dedicated an immense amount of time and effort to my learning, which I appreciate greatly. Having this rich experience at the Ezhkova lab reinforced my interest in scientific research as a pathway I want to pursue in my future career.” – Alua