Masonic Medical Research Institute, a non-profit in Utica that researches new ways to fight disease, is a little more than halfway done with its annual fellowship program that this year boasts the largest class of fellows.

“Julia and I are putting together this peptide drugs," Dr. Khan Ha said.

Ha is the coordinator for Masonic Medical Research Institute’s summer research program. Undergraduate students from across New York state and beyond are studying under the institute’s principal investigators.

The program consists of major research activity as well as networking and professional development events where students learn how to be more successful in their career in the future, in their chosen pathway. 

Ha says the fellowship prepares students for their professional career and medical school.

"Learn how to network with professionals as well as they would need to know like what are the major goals and what they need to achieve doing their career," Ha said.

“I can definitely say that coming here has made me realize that I definitely want to do something in the medical field," said Julia Sassower, a fellow for the institute’s summer program. "Being inspired by so many people around me and motivated that, you know, I can be successful."

Sassower is going into her sophomore year at Syracuse University. After being undecided in her major, she says this program has steered her to major in biology. 

“All the work you're doing every single day is having an impact on, like so many patients' lives that need what you're producing," Sassower said. "So, it's super definitely a good experience.” 

“After coming here, I've realized that science is truly something amazing and I think it can be used to help the world,” said Richard Chen, a fellow for the institute’s summer program.

Chen is going into his sophomore year at the University of Michigan. He says having the opportunity to work in this lab has been a great learning experience for his pathway to becoming a scientist. 

“I plan on being a scientist that is able to create medicine that doctors can then correctly prescribe and help people all over the world," Chen said. 

Chen says being at Masonic gives him a glimpse of the work he would like to do in the future. 

“I think it’s just amazing in science that you can meet people all over the world who want to come together and work on the same project to help the same people and make the world a better place," Chen said.