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Meet the Scholars from 2006

Kizzmekia Corbett
University: University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Hometown: Hillsborough, NC
NIH Research Project:
The Effects of Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection on Dendritic Cell Maturation by Toll-like Receptor Agonists
Mentor: Barney S. Graham, M.D., Ph.D.

Clinical Trials Core Laboratory & Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

As a child, I witnessed many family members become ill with various diseases, and I began to ask why. Why was it that doctors couldn't just operate on my grandfather's throat and make him well again? Why was it that my aunt couldn't just take a magic pill that would make her diabetes go away?

These questions led me to participate in various fundraisers, walks, and symposiums to raise money for health-related research, but I didn't become aware of the importance of such research until I began conducting research as a high school student in North Carolina Project SEED at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

I am now a junior and Meyerhoff Scholar at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County and a National Institutes of Health Undergraduate Scholar. This summer, under the mentorship and guidance of Dr. Barney Graham, I am working at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory. My experiments entail examining the pathogenesis of respiratory syncytial virus and its affects on human dendritic cells.

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection is a viral disease of the lungs, and many of its infection mechanisms remain unanswered. The goal of the Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory and the NIH Vaccine Research Center interests me because I am a strong believer that "prevention is the best way to a cure" for many of the diseases that plague not only our country, but also the entire world.

Because I am interested in using vaccines as a cost-effective prevention method for many diseases, I plan to further my studies in public health and microbiology. A background in both of these fields will prepare me to take on a career in biomedical research dedicated to preventing infection, and in turn, curing diseases.

Luciann L. Cuenca
University: Catholic University of America
Hometown: Newark, NJ
NIH Research Project:
The Catalytic Cycle of ATP Hydrolysis by P-glycoprotein (ABCB1): Role of Conserved D-loop Domain
Mentor: Curtis C. Harris, Ph.D.
Laboratory of Cell Biology
National Cancer Institute
As a five-year-old, I wondered, "If I cut a grain of table salt into tiny pieces, would it disappear into invisible particles?" Without realizing it, I was thinking of Dalton's atomic theory of matter! During high school, I became interested in pursuing a biomedical research career after taking biology and chemistry courses. As the biology and chemistry courses made me curious about the function of organisms at the molecular level, the idea of merging these two fields to design drugs for disease treatment fascinated me!

At The Catholic University of America, where I recently graduated with a B.S. in biochemistry, I worked on the synthesis of iron and manganese coordination complexes under the mentorship of Dr. Greg Brewer. In the summer of 2004, I joined the Department of Medicinal Chemistry at Rutgers University where I worked on the synthesis of a natural product known as telomestatin, a potential anticancer drug.

Last summer as a UGSP Scholar, I joined the Laboratory of Human Carcinogenesis in the National Cancer Institute (NCI) under the guidance of Dr. Curtis Harris. We focused on the identification of cancer stem cells in small cell lung cancer. Currently, I am training in NCI's Laboratory of Cell Biology with Dr. Suresh Ambudkar. Our goal is to understand the biochemical mechanisms by which P-glycoprotein (Pgp), a transporter responsible for multiple drug resistance in cancer treatment, functions. An understanding of the biochemistry of Pgp might lead to the development of novel treatments to eradicate cancer cells.

Over the next two years, I will be training in Dr. Ambudkar's laboratory and then plan to pursue a Ph.D. I am very grateful of the UGSP for supporting me and giving me the opportunity to be trained at the NIH.

Kelly R. Daigle
University: North Carolina State University
Hometown: Aulander, NC
NIH Research Project:
Toxicty of Parkinson's-associated Chemicals on Neuronal Cells Following Induction of PINK1
Mentor: Andrew B. Singleton, Ph.D.
Laboratory of Neurogenetics
National Institute on Aging
As a child, I spent many summers in the company of my grandparents. During one of those summers, however, my grandfather was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. I watched as his life changed. So began my interest in helping people through scientific research. Because of this experience, my research interest lies in the area of neurodegenerative disorders.

Currently, I am going into my fourth year at North Carolina State University. I am majoring in biology and structural and molecular biochemistry with minors in biotechnology, genetics, and Spanish. At NCSU, I work with Dr. Patricia Estes on central nervous system development, specifically of the midline of the CNS in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster.

As a UGSP Scholar, I am training under the mentorship of Dr. Andrew Singleton and Dr. Mark Cookson in the Cell Biology and Gene Expression Unit of the Laboratory of Neurogenetics within the National Institute on Aging. During the previous summer, my project involved exploring transcriptional responses involving DJ-1 and PINK1, genes whose mutations are known to cause familial Parkinson's disease.

This summer, I am working on examining the role of PINK1 in the PTEN/Akt pathway by exposing cells to various drug treatments and examining toxicity and transcriptional responses associated with these treatments.

Upon graduation from NC State, I plan to enter an M.D./Ph.D. program in neuroscience.

Vanessa J. Flores

Yessenia M. Ibarra
University: San Diego State University
Hometown: San Diego, CA
NIH Research Project:
Molecular Characterization of Intracellular Trafficking of Plasma Membrane Syntaxins
Mentor: Zu-Hang Sheng, Ph.D.
Synaptic Function Unit
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
I think most successful researchers tend to have some uncontrollable urge to have an answer. The appeal of becoming a research scientist was due mostly to my frustration by the status quo. For example, I cannot accept, "You'll never walk again," as a physician would say to a paralyzed patient.

My first research project began in the summer of 2003 in the laboratory of Dr. Ann Feeney at the Scripps Research Institute. The focus of the lab was to investigate antibody development specific to lupus. The following summer I worked in the lab of Harvey Lodish at the Whitehead Institute. I worked on understanding the role of specific receptors responsible for blood cell development. In September 2004 I began working at the Burnham Institute in the lab of Dr. Mark Mercola. My project involved analyzing stem cells that were induced to differentiate into the cardiac lineage.

I recently graduated (cum laude) from San Diego State University with a degree in cell and molecular biology. This summer I am working in Dr. Zuhang Sheng's laboratory at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Dr. Sheng's focus is to help characterize the molecular interactions of proteins in nerve cells, and my contribution is to help identify what types of interactions are occurring at nerve endings.

This fall I will begin my graduate studies in the neuroscience program at Harvard University with funding from the National Science Foundation.

After earning a Ph.D. in neuroscience, I hope to continue to conduct research in acute spinal cord injury. I also believe it is my duty, as a mentor, to initiate change and promote positive and creative breakthroughs by overcoming the status quo.

Gi'Eira Shaque Jones
University: Elizabeth City State University
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
NIH Research Project:
Development of New Gene Transfer Vector for Gene Therapy of Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome
Mentor: Fabio Candotti, M.D.
Genetics and Molecular Biology Branch
National Human Genome Research Institute
As a child I discovered a passion for science while watching television shows such as the Magic School Bus and Bill Nye, the Science Guy. By the time I was in high school I had my first internship at Fox Chase Cancer Center researching the Hei10 gene and its role in the morphology and division of cancerous cells. A few months before my high school graduation my grandmother died of ovarian cancer, and at that moment I decided to dedicate my career to the development of a better treatment and/or cure for cancer.

As a rising junior at Elizabeth City State University, I have had various research experiences, including optimizing protocols for rapid cycling fast plants and transforming Crithidia ricardoi with genes of interest by way of electroporation. Participating in these research projects and developing relationships with the faculty at my school have opened up many doors for me, most notably the door to the NIH Undergraduate Scholarship Program. With encouragement from the biology and honors departments at my school, I applied for the UGSP, and now I have the opportunity to work with Dr. Fabio Candotti, the head of the Disorders of Immunity Section in the Genetics and Molecular Biology Branch of the National Human Genome Research Institute. My current project focuses on developing retroviral gene therapy to correct genetic mutations that cause immunological disorders such as Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome (WAS).

In the future, I plan to obtain a Ph.D. in genetics and go into the field of gene therapy as a means of treatment for cancer patients.

Annie M. Le
University: University of Rochester
Hometown: Placerville, CA
NIH Research Project:
The Effects of Microtubules and Intermediate Filaments on Human Mesenchymal Stem Cell Chondrogenesis
Mentor: Rocky Tuan, Ph.D.
Cartilage Biology and Orthopaedics Branch
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
I am a senior at the University of Rochester majoring in cell and developmental biology with a minor in medical anthropology and a concentration "cluster" in ancient philosophy. While my studies in biology are my main interest, what really drives me towards a research career is my experience in medical anthropology, which has highlighted the severity of health issues in societies worldwide.

As a UGSP Scholar, I am conducting a summer project at the NIH on bone tissue engineering using multipotent mesenchymal cells. I am training under the direction of Dr. Rocky Tuan, head of the Cartilage Biology and Orthopaedics Branch of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. The purpose of the project is to further our understanding of the processes of bone and cartilage formation and implement this in regenerating tissue for patients suffering from degenerative bone diseases, most commonly osteoarthritis as a result of aging.

I am also working in with Dr. Michael Zuscik at University of Rochester. My senior thesis involves modeling the conditions of osteoarthritis in chicken articular cartilage cells to develop a better understanding of this disease. Designing, optimizing, and running experiments on my own has greatly increased my breadth of knowledge, and I have improved my scientific thinking skills that I first developed at the NIH.

My educational goals include obtaining a Ph.D. in pharmacology through the NIH Graduate Partnership Program. I plan to conduct three years of research at the NIH for my post-doctoral studies in this field. Professionally, I would like to enter academia either as an investigator at the NIH or as a professor.

Hillery Claire Metz
University: University of Idaho
Hometown: Moscow, ID
NIH Research Project:
Dynamics of GnRH-1 Neuronal Migration: The Role of Anosmin
Mentor: Susan Wray, Ph.D
Cellular and Developmental Neurobiology Section
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
It's difficult for me to pinpoint when I first knew I wanted to pursue a career in science, but I certainly had a natural attraction to it at a very early age. Now an adult, it fascinates me to realize that (thanks to the scientific method and the efforts of previous scientists) contemporary humans have the ability to understand far, far more about the world, the universe, and ourselves than any of our predecessors, ever. And science not only allows our curiosity to be satiated, but is also a powerful tool for manipulating our surroundings for the purpose of human betterment.

I unabashedly love science and have been fortunate enough to make my own (minor) contributions to scientific progress. My first research experience was with Dr. Kathy Magnusson at the University of Idaho and involved inhibiting NMDA receptors in the brains of mice and studying the resulting deficits in spatial memory. My next project was to localize the active sites of an anti-anxiety drug in the brain of the mouse, which I worked on at Washington State University under Dr. Raymond Quock. Later, I worked with Dr. Greg Bohach studying temperature regulation of genes in the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus.

Now a recent summa cum laude graduate from the Univerisity of Idaho, I am training under Dr. Susan Wray in the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke studying the dynamics of neuron migration during brain development using time-lapse video microscopy. Specifically, I am studying the migration of GnRH-1 neurons, which are essential for reproductive function in vertebrates.

Following my year of research at the NIH, I plan to pursue a Ph.D. in neurobiology and hopefully remain in academia for the duration of my career.

Nathan R. Miletta
University: Northeastern University
Hometown: Bridgeport, NY
NIH Research Project:
Detecting Deception Utilizing Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Mentor: Mark Hallett, M.D.
Human Motor Control Section
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
"Adversity has the effect of eliciting great talents, which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant." This quotation from the Roman poet Horace has continually served as a reminder to me that even the most deleterious of events may have the ability to generate positive outcomes that wouldn't have transpired otherwise.

When I was twelve years old, my father was in a near-fatal car accident, in which he suffered a cervical spinal cord injury. As a result, I was exposed to and interested in clinical medicine at a young age. This familiarity coupled with witnessing first-hand my father's resolve to fight for his goals, big and small, everyday have shaped me into the person I am today and served as motivation for me to strive for my own aspirations.

I recently graduated magna cum laude from Northeastern University with a B.S. in biology and a minor in history with honors distinction. While at Northeastern, I initiated an independent research project evaluating a new means of quadriplegic rehabilitation that utilized a suspended-harness walking device. In my final two years, I wrote my honors thesis on microbiology research that I conducted under Professor Slava Epstein. The research was concerned with cultivating novel bacteria in the hopes of discovering new antibiotics.

While at the NIH, I am conducting clinical research in the laboratory of Dr. Mark Hallett and directly under Dr. Fatta Nahab. Over the next fifteen months, I will be utilizing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study patients suffering from psychogenic movement disorders. After my time at the NIH, I plan to attend Upstate Medical University in my hometown of Syracuse, New York, where I will be pursuing my doctorate in medicine.

Patrina Ann Pellett

Candice M. Pfiester
University: Hood College
Hometown: Martinsburg, WV
NIH Research Project:
Digital Imaging in Lung Cancer Diagnosis
Mentor: Maria Teresa Landi, M.D., Ph.D.
Genetic Epidemiology Branch
National Cancer Institute
I am a rising senior at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland, where I am pursuing a major in chemistry. Additionally, I am very involved on campus in many organizations as well as the honors program.

As a country girl coming from West Virginia, NIH has presented me with a toolkit for success. Outside of providing a means for my education, the NIH has opened doors for me in the research field. I have had numerous internships at the NIH, two during my high school career. I was able to partake in top notch cancer research and drug development at the best research institute in the world. The experiences gained from this exposure are priceless, and this was only the beginning.

Before this point in my research career, I was never personally affected by cancer. I had seen many cancer patients at the NIH, but I was relatively impassive. This previous summer my aunt, age 48, passed away from lung cancer. She died at such a young age leaving behind two young children and a loving family. It was a difficult situation to handle as I felt helpless. As a result of this tragedy, I have discovered my passion for lung cancer research.

This is my second-year in the UGSP, and I am training with Dr. Maria Teresa Landi in the Genetic Epidemiology Branch in the National Cancer Institute. I am studying the budding technology known as virtual microscopy. Additionally, I am utilizing this technology in the field of lung cancer diagnosis. The vast amount of lung cancer types and subtypes causes obstacles in diagnosis, and consequently many cases are mis-diagnosed. My project evaluates the use of real and virtual microscopy for diagnostic capabilities.

After graduation, I plan to come back to the NIH to fulfill my two years of payback. Afterwards, I aspire to pursue a career in the medical field, but more importantly impact a person's life.

Joshua James Plant
University: University of Utah
Hometown: Salt Lake City, UT
NIH Research Project:
The Relationship of the Homeobox Gene Msx-2 to Expression of Cripto in Mammary Gland Development
Mentor: Barbara K. Vonderhaar, Ph.D.
Center for Cancer Research
National Cancer Institute
Growing up in a small Utah town, science has always been a large part of my life-from following a trail of ants to finding the perfect mixture of baking soda and vinegar for my homemade volcano.

Being a first generation college student and the only high school graduate amongst my siblings, education was not stressed and a formal science education was not planned for me in my rearing. However, upon entering college I was soon able to focus my passion for science into a productive and enjoyable occupation. While training with Dr. David Gard for four years at the University of Utah, I studied the proteins involved in modulating cell structure throughout the cell cycle, and I began to understand the importance of the formal training that is required to become a successful scientist.

Currently I am continuing my formal training at the National Institutes of Health by studying the process by which breast cancer cells metastasize. I am conducting the research under the mentorship of Dr. Barbara Vonderhaar in the National Cancer Institute. Using mice as a model system, we are finding that there are specific proteins that promote the transition from epithelial cells to mesenchymal cells, often referred to as EMT.

Upon finishing the NIH scholarship program, I hope to use the formal training I have acquired while at the University of Utah and the NIH to obtain an M.D./Ph.D. with an emphasis on cell biology that would allow me to later contribute to the fight against cancer.

Giselle M. Roman Hernandez

Zalya Sanchez-Galvan
University: University of California, Los Angeles
Hometown: Santa Ana, CA
NIH Research Project:
Analysis of Differential Sulfation of Chondroitin Sulfate
Mentor: Stefan Ambs, Ph.D.
Associate Director for Education
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Being a child with asthma since the age of four and having a mother who is a nurse, allowed me to ask questions about the complexity of the human body and its functions. Growing up in that environment allowed me to realize the fascination I had for the biomedical sciences. At the age of 14 I moved to the United States from Mexico, leaving my family behind for political reasons, but gaining the opportunity of obtaining an education.

At UCLA I am currently conducting research under the mentorship of Dr. Michael V. Sofroniew of the Neurobiology Department. Our laboratory investigates reactive astrocytosis in response to central nervous system (CNS) insult. We have studied the effects of astrocyte death in the immediate vicinity of CNS injury by conducting spinal cord crush injury surgeries on transgenic models. Understanding the multiple actions of astrocytes may lead to novel therapeutic strategies to improve outcome after CNS insult.

Currently as a UGSP Scholar, my mentor is Dr. Herbert Geller from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. In his laboratory I am conducting research on the role of different proteoglycans in the CNS across different areas of the system, as well as across different stages of development.

Being a UGSP Scholar has also helped me establish my decision for my future career and my long-term goals. After graduating from UCLA I plan on pursuing a Ph.D. in the field of neuroscience, with my long-term goal being the investigation of human disease.

Edgardo Sosa
University: University at Albany
Hometown: Yonkers, NY
NIH Research Project:
Analysis of Cytotoxic T Cell Responses against a Novel CML-specific Antigen
Mentor: Austin J. Barrett, M.D.
Hematology Branch
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
I recently graduated from the University at Albany in New York, where I completed a double major in biochemistry and anthropology. My interest in biomedical research arose from a serious concern with the prevalence of diabetes in my family, from a personal interest in science, and from realizing the potential that research holds to impact people everywhere, medically as well as socially.

At the University at Albany, I conducted research in Dr. Caro-Beth Stewart's laboratory for two years. I investigated the molecular evolution of caspase-1 in primates, searching for changes in this gene that may be partially responsible for the development of resistance to AIDS among certain apes and monkeys.

Although this is my first year as a UGSP Scholar, this is my third summer working in Dr. Austin J. Barrett's laboratory in the Hematology Branch of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, where the lab is interested in improving the success of stem cell transplantations (SCT) for immunotherapy. This summer, I am investigating whether patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) have circulating cytotoxic T-cell responses, before and after SCT, against a novel CML-specific antigen. If this is the case, this antigen may be the center of a new vaccination therapy for CML.

This fall, I will return to my hometown to pursue a combined M.D./Ph.D. at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. I am very excited about both learning to be a physician and conducting research in ways that are important to the community that I come from.

Lakeisha Ebonita Summers
University: Claflin University
Hometown: Hephzibah, GA
NIH Research Project:
Assessment of ADCC Activity in Rhesus Macaques Immunized with Replication Competent Adenovirus Recombinants Expressing SIV Genes
Mentor: Marjorie Robert-Guroff, Ph.D.
Basic Research Laboratory, Center for Cancer Research
National Cancer Institute
My mother always says that when I was in elementary school I used to bombard her at the door and tell her all of the things that I had learned in my science lesson that day. Of course, my love of science and the analytical process were very general. After the death of my brother, I decided that I wanted to do something to help people who suffer from diseases. This led me to pursue a career in medicine.

Attending A. R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet High School helped me experience a little of what the health field is like. By participating in a medical laboratory assisting class, I realized how much I enjoyed a lab setting.

I am a recent graduate from Claflin University with a B.S. in biochemistry. During the summer after my freshman year, I was introduced to joint M.D./Ph.D. programs at my first internship at Weill Medical College of Cornell University. I realized that with this degree I can help the largest amount of people by participating in translational research. After completing a year of my two-year service obligation to the NIH, I plan to pursue an M.D./Ph.D.

Here at the NIH, I am training with Dr. Marjorie Robert-Guroff, head of the Immune Biology of Retroviral Infection Section of the National Cancer Institute, and Dr. Ruth Florese, a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory. We are researching AIDS vaccine development using replication-competent adenovirus recombinants. My specific project is to utilize flow cytometry to screen for antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity, an immune mechanism that destroys cells expressing viral proteins on their membranes, against SIV proteins in rhesus macaques.

Michael Jason Torres
University: Dallas Baptist University
Hometown: Malakoff, TX
NIH Research Project:
The Role of BLM Helicase in Response to Replication Inhibition by Aphidicolin
Mentor: Mirit Aladjem, Ph.D.
Laboratory of Molecular Pharmacology
National Cancer Institute
Life is about asking questions. As I went through my undergraduate program in biology at Dallas Baptist University, I often found myself asking questions about what direction I would take in life. Spending a summer undertaking research at the University of Arizona, under Dr. Qin Chen, helped me realize that the exciting questions to be answered are in science.

They say graduate school teaches you how to ask the right questions, but in my experience, being a part of the UGSP here at the NIH and training under Dr. Mirit Aladjem in the National Cancer Institute, has given me an opportunity to learn how to ask the interesting questions.

Science has spent the last 50 years building a strong knowledge base in cell biology and, in particular, genetics. I believe the tide is now turning in which this knowledge can be utilized to answer the questions of disease and pathogenesis, which in turn can lead to novel treatments of these diseases and disorders. I plan on being at the forefront of this wave by preparing myself through a graduate education.

Currently, I am working on the elucidation of the mechanisms of DNA damage repair in replication factories due to cell perturbations. This is an excellent training exercise that not only allows me to answer an interesting question, but it also gives me a model by which a question of relevance to disease, in this case cancer, can be answered.

Lisa M. Watanabe
University: University of Wisconsin, Madison
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV
NIH Research Project:
Characterization of Small Noncoding RNAs that Basepair with the 3' Ends of mRNAs
Mentor: Gisela Storz, Ph.D.
Cell Biology and Metabolism Branch
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
Since I was young, I have always loved science. My high school science classes confirmed my interest in science and really pushed me into research.

Currently, I attend the University of Wisconsin at Madison. I work with Dr. Jorge Escalante in the Department of Bacteriology. There, I study the regulation of tricarballylic acid metabolism in Salmonella enterica. Tricarballylic acid is an organic acid found in certain grasses and can be toxic to ruminants. When ingested by ruminants, tricarballylic acid combines with magnesium and is excreted, causing a magnesium deficiency. This deficiency leads to grass tetany and ultimately death. Salmonella enterica can use tricarballylic acid as a carbon and energy source. Understanding the mechanism of metabolism of tricarballylic acid can ultimately help in the agricultural industry.

This summer as a UGSP Scholar, I am training at the NIH with Dr. Gisela Storz in the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. This is my second summer in the UGSP training with Dr. Storz, and I study the interaction of small RNA and its target messenger RNA. Small RNAs have different mechanisms in regulating their target mRNA. Some small RNAs can stabilize their corresponding mRNAs through base-pairing. Understanding the function of small RNAs will help in understanding the organism as a whole.

After my summer at the NIH, I will continue and finish my undergraduate degree in genetics. I hope to become a well-trained scientist to help solve important problems.

Daniel E. Webster

Wan Jou Yang
University: University of Washington
Hometown: Redmond, WA
NIH Research Project:
Varying Levels of JCV Infection during Differentiation of Primary Human Progenitor-derived Oligodendrocytes
Mentor: Eugene O. Major, Ph.D.
Laboratory of Molecular Medicine and Neuroscience
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
I've always been fascinated by the human mind, especially my own. This led me to major in neurobiology and biochemistry at the University of Washington in Seattle. I loved learning about the underpinnings of thought and behavior in a field that was generating more information every year. I wanted to be part of that enterprise and combine my interest in neuroscience and biochemistry to understand neuro-degeneration in biomedical research. After I graduate, I hope to get an M.D./Ph.D. and conduct research on Alzheimer's disease.

My recent experience with undergraduate research affirmed that the research laboratory is where I am meant to be. I work in the ideal place to learn about the path toward an M.D./Ph.D. - a neuropathology lab at Harborview Medical Center where I train with Dr. Thomas Montine and Dr. Randall Woltjer, both of whom are M.D./Ph.D.s. My project compares protein insolubility between two neurodegenerative diseases, Alzheimer's disease and the Parkinsonism dementia complex of Guam.

This summer I am looking at JC virus infection during differentiation from progenitor cells to oligodendrocytes in the laboratory of Dr. Eugene Major at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). The JC virus lytically infects oligodendrocytes, causing the fatal demyelination of neurons in the disease Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML).