Michael Sramek, a former summer intern at the Gladstone Institutes, and Yvanka de Soysa, a graduate student in the laboratory of Deepak Srivastava, MD, worked together to develop a new mouse model of heart disease. [Photo: Chris Goodfellow, Gladstone Institutes]


Veterans Day pays tribute to military personnel who served their country honorably during war or peacetime. These grandparents, parents, children, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and other members of the community are an inspiration and a reminder of sacrifice and commitment. At the Gladstone Institutes, veterans like Michael Sramek, a former summer intern, exemplify this dedication to service.

Serving His Country

Sramek served in the California Army National Guard from 2009 to 2015. As a combat engineer, Sramek trained and mentored new soldiers on their physical and scholastic goals and helped them transition back to civilian life after serving.

“I joined the Guard to escape the bad influences in my life and to really think about what I wanted to do,” said Sramek. “I also believed that the Guard would help me gain the self-confidence and discipline that I felt I needed.”

In 2012, Sramek was deployed to Afghanistan. During that time, he earned several awards, including a Combat Action Badge, an Army Commendation Medal for excellence in leadership, and an Army Achievement Medal for dedication to duty. He also received a Purple Heart Medal, the oldest military award given to members of the US military, for wounds suffered in combat.

Learning while Serving

While a member of the Guard, Sramek attended Santa Rosa Junior College and Woodland Community College, where he earned associate’s degrees in history, humanities, and natural sciences. During that time, Sramek joined the Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement (MESA) program, which helps educationally disadvantaged student become engineers, scientists, and other math-based professionals.

After learning about Sramek’s goal to work in the medical field, his mentor at MESA encouraged him to apply for the Promoting Underrepresented Minorities Advancing in the Sciences (PUMAS) program at Gladstone. PUMAS was established in 2014 by Melanie Ott, MD, PhD, a senior investigator at Gladstone, and is funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health. The program supports historically under-represented community college students who plan to transfer to a 4-year institution to pursue a bachelor’s degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics.

“I wanted to gain lab experience, because I knew it would help me understand the difficult topics in biology that I would learn in college,” said Sramek. “I wanted to hit the ground running when I transferred to a 4-year university.”

Exploring Biomedical Research

Sramek was accepted into the 2016 PUMAS program at Gladstone. During that summer, he joined the lab of Deepak Srivastava, MD, director of the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease, where he was mentored by Yvanka de Soysa, a graduate student in Srivastava’s lab. For his research project, Sramek helped de Soysa develop a new mouse model of heart disease. At the end of the summer, he presented his research at a poster session attended by the Gladstone community.

Sramek’s research endeavors did not stop at Gladstone. Now a student at UC Davis, he is majoring in environmental toxicology with an emphasis in molecular and biomedical toxicology and a minor in education, and he continues to do research in a neurogenomics lab at the UC Davis Center for Neuroscience.

“Working in the Srivastava lab broadened my knowledge of careers in science,” said Sramek, who plans to apply to medical school next summer. “With the knowledge I gained through the PUMAS program at Gladstone, I am now exploring dual-degree programs that support a career in medicine and keep me informed of new advances in biomedical research.”

Paving the Way to Medical School

In addition to his coursework and research, Sramek is also an intern in the burn unit at the UC Davis Medical Center, where he cares for patients who have suffered traumatic burn injuries. He also hopes to work with the Davis Student Veterans Organization and to advocate for other student veterans on campus.

“Michael was an exemplary member of our PUMAS program,” said Shannon Noonan, MS, the education and community partnerships manager at Gladstone. “The discipline and leadership skills he gained serving in the National Guard were apparent during his time at Gladstone, and they will undoubtedly help him succeed in his career in science and medicine.”