Two Chaminade students spent their summer vacations with an up-close view of, and a tangible role in, cutting-edge diabetes research at NYU Winthrop in a new community partnership between the school and the institution. Seniors Owen Barthel and Austin Cusumano completed summer internships at NYU Winthrop’s Research and Academic Center focusing on cardiovascular complications from obesity and type 2 diabetes.
“This is real-world science and it’s amazing,” Cusumano explained. “We were working alongside postdoctoral researchers, handling our own samples and presenting in meetings.”
Researchers have discovered that bariatric surgery, a surgical procedure to help a patient lose weight, can immediately bring type 2 diabetes into remission even before any weight loss takes place. Louis Ragolia, director of biomedical research and associate professor of research at NYU Winthrop, leads a team seeking to understand just how that happens and find innovative ways to mimic those effects. Researchers shared their expertise with Chaminade’s interns who contributed to the lab’s vision.
“Owen and Austin learned techniques we would traditionally teach college students,” said Ragolia. “Their commitment and dedication was evident, however, enabling them to perform more advanced work and get the full taste of science in our labs.”
Cusumano and Barthel experimented by doing their own cell culturing and subculturing, isolating proteins and comparing how different diets affect cells.
“We’re learning from the procedures we follow in the lab, seeing the results and helping real people,” said Barthel. “That’s most important.”
The partnership between Chaminade and NYU Winthrop is a new venture for the school. It is part of Chaminade’s redoubled commitment to science education, encouraged by a national conversation about the importance of STEM learning. For the first time this school year, students will take classes in the new Dolan Family Science, Technology and Research Center—a 34,000 square-foot facility on the school’s campus—outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment for the study of biology, chemistry, physics, robotics, and geosciences.
“Much of our internship rested on a strong foundation in science and math,” said Cusumano. “I used what I’ve learned in every subject—English to make a presentation and social studies to understand the cultures of my colleagues. We learn a lot about the importance of collaboration at Chaminade and this is collaboration in action.”
Cusumano will continue his research at NYU Winthrop several days after school this year. He will also continue to serve the Catholic community in Mineola as a Parish Religious Education Program catechist at Corpus Christi. Barthel is this year’s editor-in-chief of Tarmac, the school newspaper. Both students are active participants in the Science Olympiad and will travel to tournaments across New York and the northeast.
In 2015, NYU Winthrop opened the Research and Academic Center on Mineola Boulevard—a state-of-the-art 95,000 square foot facility that combines stellar clinical care with progressive research to tackle the effects of diabetes and obesity head-on. It was in this building that Barthel and Cusumano made most of their valuable research contributions.