published August 21, 2012
“Just the thing” for budding researchers
For Pietro, who is a sophomore at Yale University and is studying molecular, cellular and developmental biology in the pre-medicine program, research is exactly his thing. As a LFM Fellowship recipient, Pietro is currently spending the summer working in Dr. Erik Peterson’s lab in the University of Minnesota’s Center for Immunology Research, looking at the development and function of immune cells that have been implicated in a number of autoimmune diseases. The group is looking at the job of a powerful lupus-predisposing gene, and its role in potentially altering the workings of cells in fighting infections and in suppressing the activation of lymphocytes with capacity to damage skin, joints, and other tissues in lupus.
And then there’s Brianna, who is from Lakeville and will be a junior at the University of Minnesota in the fall. Research is her thing too. While earning her major in biology and working on a minor in neuroscience in the hopes of a career in clinical research, Brianna is currently completing her fellowship in the lab of Dr. Emily Gillespie whose work is focused on studying patterns of gene and protein expression to identify pathways that are dysregulated in autoimmunity. Through this study, they hope to look for signals that can predict the future development of autoimmune disease in patients who test positive for antinuclear antibody(ANA).
Both students agreed to blog about their experiences on the LFM website this summer and will also shared their outcomes at a public presentation on August 20 at the University of Minnesota. Pietro’s presentation can be viewed online.
As a result of their public conversations, they’ve collected quite a following of readers interested in the twists and turns of clinical research in a field that is full of dynamic challenges and daily discoveries, as well as those interested in tracking their own development from college students to authentic researchers, which seems to increase as the weeks progress. Both students have demonstrated they have what it takes, and both are thrilled and invigorated by the challenges of the experience and are sharing their own journey with anyone who cares to track it as the summer progresses and it’s pretty exciting stuff to be able to peek in on.
As Pietro posted on July 31, “the past two weeks have been the culmination of a month’s research in the technical background of flow cytometry, and I’m very pleased to be mounting experiments independently to get strong data and results. I now feel like a real scientist, working into the night and being excited about it!”
LFM’s Student Summer Fellowship Program is a great way to cultivate the skills of young scientists and strengthen interests in research by actually practicing it, working alongside clinical scientists and healthcare professionals dedicated to diagnosing and treating disease. Research clinic placements offer students a chance to gain quality career experience through daily, on-the-job interaction with not only their research mentors, but by becoming members of established research teams in clinical laboratory environments.
Summer research fellowships are made possible through gifts from individual donors to LFM. Since 1981, over 105 students have been placed at research facilities such as the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic to participate in patient-oriented research projects studying questions that have direct clinical application.
Based on their academic qualifications and professional interests, student applicants are matched with investigators and spend up to 12 weeks conducting research. Students usually participate in the program in the summer between their first and third summers of undergraduate training. Many are pre-med, some are working diligently toward a career in research and others are majoring in biology, chemistry or other disciplines and exploring careers in research, medicine or healthcare.
Superior academic achievements, as well as technical skills, are prerequisites. A career in research requires a specific and often diametric skill set such as functioning well as a team player, but then independent work is also required, which demands a good amount of self-motivation. Communicating skillfully, both orally and in writing is critical, but then again there is a need to be able to process, monitor and evaluate detailed and complex processes independently. Monitoring large amounts of data requires a keen eye for detail, but again, one also has to have an eye on the broader picture and systemic applications.
It is true, a career in clinical research may not interesteveryone. But for those who are passionate about it, they are often individuals who:
- Are committed to discovering medical breakthroughs
- Enjoy over-coming challenges
- Have vision
- Are thrilled by discovery
- Are committed to making a difference
For those students that possess these characteristics, a career as a clinical researcher might be just the thing! They can’t be certain, though, until they’ve immersed themselves in a research lab, and LFM’s Student Summer Fellowship Program might just be the best place to do just that.