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IUSM faculty-mentored summer interns present research at annual poster session

Aug. 14, 2014

Undergraduate and high school students engaged in summer lab research under the mentorship of IU School of Medicine faculty recently presented the results of their work during an annual event in University Tower Ballroom.

Among the participants in the Summer Research Program Poster Symposium on July 25 were students assigned to IUSM faculty mentors through the IU Simon Cancer Center Summer Research Program, IUSM-IUPUI Women in Science Summer Internship Program, IUPUI Undergraduate Research Mentoring in the Biological Sciences and Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute. The session was hosted by the IUPUI Center for Research and Learning, a division of the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research at IUPUI. 

Kayla Knox

Kayla Knox, a senior at Brownsburg High School, spent her summer in the lab of Samisubbu Naidu, Ph.D., assistant professor of dermatology at the IU School of Medicine. | PHOTO BY LAUREN SCHEID

The students presented on a range of subjects, including research with applications to bone healing, pulmonary fibrosis and cancer.

Ilse Jimenez-Segovia, a biochemistry student at IUPUI, got the opportunity to contribute to breast cancer research in the lab of Clark Wells, Ph.D., an associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the IU School of Medicine.

“We’re specifically looking at a pathway called the 'Hippo pathway,' which is involved in cell growth regulation (in breast cancer)," Jimenez-Segovia said. Dr. Clark's lab is exploring how blocking certain proteins from entering the nucleus of a particular cell could potentially stop the uncontrolled growth of cells associated with breast cancer.

A Hispanic student for whom English is a second language, Jimenez-Segovia said she hopes her participation in the program may inspire other Hispanic women to enter scientific fields of study.

"It’s memorable that overall you get to contribute to the field and that maybe in the future this can be used to create a treatment for cancer," she said. "On a personal level, I liked doing this too because I feel that other Latino women who started out without English skills can see that it's possible to accomplish."

Jimenez-Segovia's summer lab experience was supported by the IUPUI Undergraduate Research Mentoring in the Biological Sciences Program, which provides intensive research and mentoring experiences for promising undergraduates who belong to historically underrepresented minority groups. The goal is to get those students to apply for and complete research-based graduate programs in the biological sciences.

Another IUSM lab intern this summer was Kayla Knox, a senior at Brownsburg High School, whose mentor was Samisubbu Naidu, Ph.D., assistant professor of dermatology.

"Basically, we were looking at two proteins in melanoma," Knox said. "The first is stabilized in melanoma cells, which leads to cell death; and the second, if it is stabilized, would lead to cell proliferation, which is the cancer itself.

Summer research poster

A student show the results of his summer research at the 2014 Summer Research Program Poster Symposium. | PHOTO BY LAUREN SCHEID

"We hypothesized that it didn’t stabilize because it had already died from the stabilization of the first protein. I tested to see if the second protein stabilized; and it didn’t, like I had predicted."

In further studies, Knox said Dr. Naidu's lab plans to test the effect of a compound on melanoma versus non-melanoma tissue. She said the most memorable part of her experience in the program was the opportunity to experience working in a "real" laboratory contributing to "real" research.

Knox's summer lab experience was supported by the IU Simon Cancer Center Summer Research Program, a nine-week program that places students with cancer center mentors conducting studies in the most progressive areas of cancer research.

Julia Harris, a senior in biology at IUPUI also participating in the poster session, worked with Lilian Plotkin, Ph.D., assistant professor of anatomy and cell biology at the IU School of Medicine.

Harris said she spent her summer contributing to research on how the overexpression of a specific protein relates to bone growth in mice, laying the groundwork for future research on the subject. She also said the experience helped her discover that she not only wants to become a practicing physician in the future, but an active medical researcher as well.

"I wanted to go to medical school, but I really like the research side of it," she said. "I’m hoping that in the future I can go into a medical field and work somewhere where I can do patient care and do research because I feel like you learn something new every day."

Harris' summer lab experience was supported by the IUSM Biomedical Gateway-IUPUI Women in Science Summer Internship Program, a Central Indiana STEP-sponsored program that matches female undergraduate students with female faculty research mentors at the IU School of Medicine.

Poster session ballroom

This year's poster session took place in the University Tower Ballroom. | PHOTO BY LAUREN SCHEID

Christian McGill, a sophomore at IU Bloomington, engaged in pulmonary fibrosis research for his summer internship with Ragini Vittal, Ph.D., assistant research professor of medicine at the IU School of Medicine.    

"I worked with pulmonary fibrosis, which is the fatal scarring of the lungs," McGill said. "In the past couple of years, researchers began to discover an autoimmune aspect to pulmonary fibrosis that needs more study. I performed several tests that seem to confirm this correlation between autoimmunity and pulmonary fibrosis."

McGill's summer research experience was supported by the Indiana CTSI, a collaboration among IU, Purdue University and Notre Dame, which sponsors several undergraduate research opportunities through the IUPUI Center for Teaching and Learning. Last year, McGill also participated in undergraduate research as a high school senior through Indianapolis Project Seed, a not-for-profit organization providing opportunities for Indiana high school students to work on college-level laboratory research also supported in part by the Indiana CTSI.

The chance to contribute to such high-level research as a college freshman was an extremely meaningful opportunity, McGill said, especially considering many students aren't given similar responsibilities until their post-graduate education. 

"My mother won't even let me do my own laundry yet," he said with a laugh.

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