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2012 Student Research Fellowships: The Recipients' Experiences

The Recipients' Experiences (2011)

The AΩA Student Research Fellowship is a wonderful opportunity for students to pursue their research interests regardless of financial circumstance. I've come to appreciate the time and dedication that goes into producing evidence-based medicine, and hope to continue conducting research as a practicing physician. Having the support as an M2 to complete a research project I had been working on for a couple of years was liberating. Our research has now been presented at the number of national conferences. My great experience has led me to recommend this program to other students as often as possible.

Wendy Fujioka
Class of 2015
Robert Wood Johnson Medical School at Rutgers University

I became involved in translational research in the field of orthopaedic oncology during my first year of medical school. and investigated methods by which to inhibit the growth and metastasis of osteosarcoma. Although osteosarcoma is the most common primary bone malignancy in children and adolescents, there have been few major advancements in treatment over the past three decades. My lab has made great strides in recent years toward developing promising translational therapies for ostosarcoma, and seeing great potential in this work, I sought to pursue a research fellowship investigating improved treatments for osteosarcoma. The Carolyn L. Kuckein Student Research Fellowship provided me with the opportunity to do this and will form solid foundation on which to build a career.

Joseph Lamplot
Class of 2014
University of Chicago Division of the Biological Sciences Pritzker School of Medicine

As a recipient of the Carolyn L. Kuckein Student Research Award, I conducted a year of basic science research after my second year of medical school. My prior experiences in basic science research had been limited to technician-level work. I washed glassware, performed simple stains, and did an occasional experiment designed by a supervising graduate student. As a result, I entered medical school believing that I had little interest in basic science research.

As a second year medical student, I designed and completed my first clinical research project. During this experience, I wondered if my early disinterest in basic science research was based on my superficial early experiences. The Carolyn L. Kukein Student Research Award allowed me to reexamine this early bias.

Under the guidance of a supportive mentor, I was given the flexibility to design and conduct my own experiments. I gained valuable experience in presenting and discussing my research at a national meeting. Now a year after completing my research year, I am rejoining the laboratory as a fourth year medical student to complete my experiments and to submit my manuscript for publication. I plan to continue developing my research skills by applying for research track dermatology residency positions. I am extremely grateful to the members of Alpha Omega Alpha for making this opportunity possible.

Sarah Lee
Class of 2014
Northwestern University The Feinberg School of Medicine

Receiving the research fellowship enabled me to embark on a research project I would otherwise likely not have had the opportunity to pursue. The investigation was a highly stimulating pursuit in the final year of my medical education. Ultimately, investigations such as these remind students that productive application of their acquired knowledge to scientific investigation is likely one of the most rewarding and influential culminations of their formal medical education. I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to complete my investigations thanks to the generosity of Alpha Omega Alpha.

Christen Lennon, MD
Class of 2013
Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons

"Detection of disruption in the PI3K/AKT pathway in patients with ileal carcinoids"

The AΩA Carolyn L. Kuckein Research Fellowship provided me with a wonderful learning experience in the summer after my first year of medical school. With the support of this fellowship I was able to dedicate 8-full time weeks continuing the research project I had begun the summer before in the lab of Dr. Damian Shin in the Center for Neuropharmacology and Neuroscience at Albany Medical College. Under Dr. Shin’s guidance, I was able to design and carry out experiments that examined the role that gap junctions play in the pathophysiology of Parkinson’s disease. This study is very promising and I was fortunate to be able to present the work at several national conferences and write up the results as a thesis for my school’s “MD with Distinction in Research Program”. Overall, this research fellowship has further fostered my interest in a career as a physician-scientist and I am forever grateful for this opportunity.

Sujoy Phookan
Class of 2015
Albany Medical College

"Suppression of Gap Junctional Activity Attenuates Pathological Beta Oscillations in the Basal Ganglia of the Parkinsonian Rat"

My experience as a recipient of the 2012 Carolyn L. Kuckein Student Research Fellowship. was one that I believe taught me many lessons concerning the research process. the original project we began with was met with a tremendous deal of obstacles and we decided to change the project. This showed me that the actual research process is more complex than it originally seemed and that the work that we were attempting to accomplish encountered many twists and turns. As a result a new project emerged and was followed through. I learned that research is exactly what its name suggests, repetition, search, and modification over and over to get a result that is worth standing upon. I am grateful for my experience because I learned how to endure this process and how to efficiently manage the time that I have to seek out an answer to a scientific question that is worth finding out. These valuable lessons will be carried with me for as long as I live and throughout my career.

Ashley Pinette
Class of 2014
Howard University College of Medicine

"Trends in Hospitalization associated with Alzheimer’s Disease in the United States"

I feel extremely honored and sincerely grateful to have been chosen as a recipient of the 2012 Carolyn L. Kuckein Student Research Fellowship, an incredible opportunity that sparks my strong interest in research on traumatic brain injury.

As a first year medical student, I started doing research with my mentor Dr. Uzma Samadani in the Department of Neurosurgery at New York University School of Medicine in 2011. Our proposal is the collaboration of a multidisciplinary team of specialists in neurosurgery and radiology who work together to answer the clinical question of traumatic brain injury. By working on this project, I learned how to conceive a scientific problem, develop a hypothesis, look for ways to solve it, perform research, analyze data, and write manuscripts. More importantly, writing a research proposal may be the most overwhelming research task that I have had. It was very hard to produce an informative and compelling application, but I was fortunate to have joined a laboratory where I can obtain substantial research experience and where innovation, leadership, and individual initiative are nurtured. This fellowship grant contributed to the publication of two papers published in Neurological Research and further enhanced my interest in the field. I am very proud to be the first author on one of these two articles describing a pilot clinical trial of severe traumatic brain injury.

This enriching and rewarding experience allows me to spread my research interest in two other disciplines: brain tumors and neurodegenerative diseases. I benefited from the generosity of mentors, postdocs, fellows, and laboratory chiefs in the laboratories. I also learned how specialized the field of neurosurgery/neurology can be. Although the actual experiments may seem mundane and sitting in front of the computer to analyze data all day long could be dreary and tiring at times, it is very exciting to know that this work has paid off. As a reward for those projects, I am among authors of five articles published in Neuro-Oncology, Annals of Surgical Oncology, PLoS One, Toxicology Letters, and Academic Radiology.

I gain a lot of satisfaction from solving a real research problem, but I am driven to do research because I ultimately want to make scientific discoveries in medicine. Hopefully, these will lead to advances in clinical medicine that will enable us to offer patients, such as those suffering from severe traumatic brain injury, more than supportive care. I consider this fellowship experience as a professional stepping stone in my long-term commitment to research on academic medicine. I plan to find a niche within academic medicine to devote my life to being a physician scientist to help today's and tomorrow's patients.

Chen Shi
Class of 2015
New York University School of Medicine

Like many, I chose the field of medicine because I desired the unique privilege to improve the human condition, to influence the lives of many in a positive manner. Alongside my classmates, we pulled long hours in both the library and wards because we all believed in our mission—to become the best clinicians possible. After a student rotation in surgery, I became interested in transplantation. I marveled at the simple yet intricate elegance of transplantation in the treatment of end organ failure. After participating in my first orthotopic heart transplant, I knew I had found my calling in the vast field of medicine. Yet, I was still not satisfied. Despite the advances in transplant immunology, pharmacology, and organ preservation, donor organ shortage and the inevitable threat of chronic rejection still limit transplantation's larger clinical impact. One of my surgical ICU patients was not a transplant candidate due to her multiple comorbidities. Motivated by her story as well as those of others, I became interested in investigating solutions for donor organ shortage and chronic rejection.

As a third year medical student, I desired the opportunity to supplement my medical education with exposure to tissue engineering and organ regeneration. The AΩA Carolyn L. Kuckein Student Research Fellowship provided me the opportunity, resources, and medium to develop a foundation in tissue engineering, stem cell biology, and organ regeneration. The AΩA Research Fellowship provided more than simply monetary support: it allowed me the opportunity to take the initial steps to achieving my dream of building and transplanting a bioartificial organ on demand.

If you would like the opportunity to supplement your medical education with hands-on biomedical and/or clinical research experience, I highly recommend seeking the support of the AΩA Research Fellowship.

Jeremy J. Song
Class of 2014
University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine

"Regeneration and experimental orthotopic transplantation of a bioengineered kidney"

Abstract of published paper in Nature Medicine

My interest in conducting research began when I was an undergraduate biology major. I was especially fascinated by cell biology and immunology and pursued research projects in those fields. In fact, my interest in medicine grew out of those initial exploratory years. After I enrolled in medical school the Ohio State University, I was determined to continue to refine my skills at the lab bench, and was fortunate enough to join Dr. Ginny Bumgardner’s lab in the Department of Surgery. Dr. Bumgardner’s lab focuses on the basic cell-cell interactions of transplant immunology. I enjoyed this setting, as it brought basic science and clinical medicine much closer together. My project involved elucidating novel roles of NKT cells in a post hepatocyte transplant mouse model. After a very productive year, we are in the process of submitting a manuscript to the Journal of Immunology.

Participation in this AΩA-sponsored research project has benefitted me three-fold. First, through literature review and didactic sessions from my mentors, I have gained a significant understanding of the basic science pertaining to transplant immunology. Second, from a technical standpoint, I have learned and refined many techniques commonly used in research settings. Third, I have further developed my skills in experimental design, data analysis/interpretation, and communication of results. I am very thankful for the opportunity that I received from the AΩA grant. This experience has further strengthened my interest in research, and I plan to continue to participate in such projects as my medical career progresses.

Prasanth Swamy
Class of 2015
The Ohio State University College of Medicine

"Critical role of Type I NKT Cells in Posttransplant Alloantibody Production"

My project was to create an e-learning module to teach pulmonary mechanics to first and second year medical students with an emphasis on interdisciplinary learning and the integration of the clinical and basic sciences. The AΩA funds allowed me to bring my project to fruition and create a tangible product. Without such funds, it would have been hard to cover the costs of the animator and to bring the module to life from a story-board to a real, moving, animation. More importantly, however, this project represents my first venture into medical education research. I have thoroughly enjoyed the process of identifying an educational niche, designing an intervention to fill in the need, and then realizing it so that other students may use the teaching tool, all the while working alongside supportive mentors who gave me the confidence to succeed. I am uncertain as to what the future brings, but I am certain of one thing: and that is I will continue to work in the medical education field in some capacity, hopefully both teaching and conducting research on novel teaching innovations. This teaching module is currently being used at Vanderbilt in a 2nd year preclinical course and is going to be presented at the American College of Surgeons and AAMC-RIME meetings.

Voranaddha Vacharathit
Class of 2014
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

Updated on November 22, 2013.