I am working at the National Institutes of Health this year on a Postbaccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award. The IRTA postbac award gives recent college graduates the opportunity to do research at the NIH for one or two years while they apply to graduate or medical school. I will be working at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. I am studying the effects of an L-selectin protein found on CD4+ T cells on HIV nfection in these cells. I will also look into how cytotoxic T cells (CD8+ T cells) downregulate the expression of the L-selectin protein to diminish the extent to which the T cells are infected by HIV.
I spent my summer doing research at the Fundación Instituto Leloir (Leloir Institute) in Buenos Aires, Argentina as a Howard Hughes International Research Scholar. I worked in the lab of Dr. Armando Parodi researching the mechanisms of quality control of glycoprotein folding. Interestingly, Dr. Parodi did his Ph.D with Luis Leloir, one of the founders of the Institute and winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1970. It was a great experience to work in such a well-known lab, and I learned many new and exciting molecular biology techniques that will be applicable to my research at Wooster and as I move on to graduate school. Being immersed in the Argentine culture and language broadened my understanding of the world, and I made many lifelong friends. The experience of living in a Spanish-speaking country allowed me to greatly improve my Spanish. I was also able to travel and see the beautiful sites in Argentina and Uruguay. I would highly recommend a research experience abroad to others.
This summer, I worked at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN, as part of their Pediatric Oncology Education program. I worked in an infectious disease laboratory under Dr. Elaine Tuomanen and Wooster Alum Dr. Jason Rosch studying the role of cation homeostatis in Streptococcus pneumoniae pathogenesis. I examined the phenotype seen in these bacteria during metal exposure as several potential cation efflux pumps were knocked out, We were also interested in transcriptional activation of the operons on which these genes are located, and how different cations can cross-activate pumps that were previously thought to be specific to one metal. I also used mouse models to see if a decrease in virulence was seen when one particular gene of interest was knocked out of the bacteria, which could implicate the transporter as a target of future drug therapy.
Participating in this program was a great experience for me. I was to perform top-quality research in a hospital setting, giving me a more accurate idea of what I could potentially do as a physician-scientist. Attending daily seminars related to the treatment of cancer and related illnesses broadened my idea of disease as a systemic model, and complimented the basic science knowledge I have acquired here at Wooster in class and during the two summers I spent doing research on-campus. Conversations with professionals in different stages of their careers also provided me with valuable insight into the world of research medicine.
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