January 10, 2019

Romaine Dawkins and Melissa Emilcar: The Science of Career Development

For some students in the Jaggar Community Fellows Program, there’s literally a science to internships—and that science is to be found at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research at Northwell Health in Manhasset, New York. Romaine Dawkins and Melissa Emilcar are just two of the many Adelphi students who’ve found exciting opportunities conducting hands-on research through the Feinstein Institute Summer Intern Program.

Dawkins learned about the care and handling of laboratory mice, but the practical experience didn’t end there. He got to conduct his own experiment on their social hierarchy. Following the hypothesis that submissive mice will change their behavior based on a dominant mouse, he trained them in mazes, alternately giving and withdrawing food rewards for finding the right path through the labyrinth.

“So far, the data that I have analyzed indicates that if one is not rewarded, then all the mice will do poorly,” he said. “This indicates that they are somehow communicating in the cage. They somehow know that the food is being taken away.” The research, he added, could eventually have implications about human behavior modeling and modification.

Dawkins was born in Jamaica and moved with his parents to New York City when he was 7. While taking classes at Queens College, CUNY (City College of New York), a mentor suggested he check out the STEM program at Adelphi. That led him to the Center for Career and Professional Development, through which he found the Jaggar Community Fellows Program and the Feinstein internship.

“The first time I walked in the office was two years ago, and I’ve developed a good relationship with them ever since,” he said. Dawkins will graduate in May 2019, and plans to pursue a Ph.D. in neuroscience.

For Queens native Melissa Emilcar, the path to Adelphi was more direct. Her mother is an alum and several of her cousins also attended. “Panther Pride has always been there,” she said. “And I liked the fact that it is not such a big school and I got to know my professors. It feels like a home.”

Emilcar’s internship involved studying chemicals that cause inflammation after injuries and send signals to the brain through the vagus nerve. She studied anesthetized mice, injecting them with disulfide and performing microsurgery on nerve strands that are thinner than a human hair to monitor neural activity. The research could lead to new ways of relieving inflammation and swelling in human patients.

“I learned so much even though it was only an eight-week period,” she said. “I’ve stretched myself, and the staff was so welcoming and patient. I was able to connect with so many people and get their perspectives on science and life in general.”

Opportunity came to her by way of a visit with Career Center Associate Director of Experiential Learning Bernadine Waller, M.A. ’10, who presented at a meeting of Black Students United, of which Emilcar is a member. When Waller told her about the internship, the premed biology major—who also graduates in May 2019—knew that it was the one for her. But finding an internship wasn’t the only offer she took the Career Center up on.

“The Career Center definitely helped me build up my résumé,” she said. “I took an Internship Preparation Seminar that really helped prepare me for my internships. They went over networking and public speaking.

“I’m very science-/medicine-oriented,” she added, “so Feinstein was a good fit for me.”


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Adelphi University, New York, is a highly awarded, nationally ranked, powerfully connected doctoral research university dedicated to transforming students’ lives through small classes with world-class faculty, hands-on learning and innovative ways to support academic and career success. Adelphi offers exceptional liberal arts and sciences programs and professional training, with particular strength in our Core Four—Arts and Humanities, STEM and Social Sciences, the Business and Education Professions, and Health and Wellness.

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