Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis

Mentoring from Afar

Release Date: 
Jun 3 2010

INDIANAPOLIS – Three New Jersey ninth graders, their science coach, and their mentor, who is the internationally respected director of the Indiana University Center for Regenerative Biology and Medicine, will be traveling to Washington, D.C. this month when the students are honored for their participation in the national Toshiba/National Science Teachers Association ExploraVision competition, in which their project placed second out of 1,799 teams.

“The students, sisters Ariella and Eliana Applebaum and their friend Elana Forman of Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls in Teaneck, N.J., wanted to investigate how a human arm could be regenerated. Through the Internet they learned of the IU Center for Regenerative Biology and Medicine and contacted me for advice,” said David Stocum, Ph.D., professor of biology in the School of Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and founder of the IU Center for Regenerative Biology and Medicine.

Stocum said the three students had a novel idea of creating a “molecular cocktail” to initiate the regeneration of a human arm. He provided them with a research roadmap to guide their investigation. 

“Their outstanding performance in the Toshiba/NSTA awards program demonstrates the high quality and innovation of their research, which is pretty remarkable for 14-year olds. I really look forward to meeting the students and their coach,” said Stocum. 

The award-winning project is titled REGENX: Human Limb Regenerative Protein Cocktail Injections.

“Throughout my career, mentoring, especially those who are just beginning to develop a focus in life, is something that I find benefits the mentor as well as the mentees and helps me be a better scientist. Over the past several years I have advised high school students from across the nation who have learned of our work from the Internet. I am always impressed with their curiosity, thinking and enthusiasm,” added Stocum, who is a former dean of the School of Science at IUPUI.

Stocum and colleagues have conducted the most comprehensive study to date of the proteins in the amputated limbs of axolotls, a type of salamander which has the unique natural ability to regenerate appendages from any level of amputation with the hope that this knowledge will help them better understand the basic mechanisms that allow limbs to regenerate, and possibly lead to the molecular cocktail envisioned in Ariella’s, Eliana’s, and Elana’s project. 

“We really couldn’t have gotten this far in the competition without Dr. Stocum’s help. Although we had an idea of a protein regeneration injection for human limbs, he provided us with the scientific background, literature and guidance that allowed us to focus our thoughts and ideas. We couldn’t have asked for a better mentor,” said student Eliana Applebaum.

While they learned of Stocum through research, the fact that Stocum is an IUPUI faculty member was especially meaningful to the Applebaum sisters as their late grandfather Jerome Smith, Ph.D. taught at IUPUI for 34 years. 

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The School of Science at IUPUI is committed to excellence in teaching, research, and service in the biological, physical, behavioral and mathematical sciences. The School is dedicated to being a leading resource for interdisciplinary research and science education in support of Indiana's effort to expand and diversify its economy. For more information go to science.iupui.edu.