Sept. 12, 2012

While many college and graduate students give their brains a summer break, 130 medical students at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) spent their time off in the laboratory learning research skills and getting a peek at the “other side” of science.

The medical student summer research program at MCW matches first and second-year medical students with mentors and research projects to provide an intensive, hands-on research experience in a biomedical, translational or clinical research laboratory at MCW.

“This program is designed to expose students to research careers through extended experiences typically not available in a regular medical school program,” said David Harder, Ph.D., the Kohler Co. Professor in Cardiovascular Research and director of the summer research program.

Students received fellowships from several sources, both internal and external. The National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and National Institutes on Aging funds some slots. Several MCW departments also provide support through existing budgets and external donors.

Brian Schultz, who just began his second year of medical school at MCW, was one of two Kohler Co. fellows enrolled in the summer program. He worked in Dr. Michael Olivier’s lab researching the proteins involved in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

“I have a background in proteomics, and am very excited about this summer program,” Schultz said. “This particular project is a great match for my skills and interests, and I plan to stay involved in this research even after this summer program comes to a close,” said the Beaver Dam, Wis., native.

Nicholas Dreger, an Eagle River, Wis., native, was also funded by Kohler. His research project focused on pediatric outcomes following a cardiac procedure called catheter ablation, in which a tiny portion of the heart is burned in an effort to treat irregular heart rhythms. Dreger studied with Dr. Anoop Singh in the Herma Heart Center at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

“I’ve learned a lot about data, outcomes, and research. While I plan to pursue a career as a clinician, I’m also very interested in clinical research, and this experience has just magnified that interest,” said Dreger.

“I think this program is a great introduction to the world of datasets, research design, and scientific writing,” said Dreger’s mentor on the project, Dr. Anoop Singh. “These are merely concepts for many students that become more tangible following the summer research program.”

In past years, only a few dozen students were funded for summer research. Dr. Harder credits individual departments and donors for this year’s record 130 students who enrolled in the program.

“We want all our students to have these opportunities to explore careers in cutting edge biomedical research, to gain the tools applicable to clinical practice, and to develop relationships with educators in a wide range of the sciences,” said Dr. Harder.

This fall, the students are responsible for creating scientific posters describing their projects. Those posters will be displayed on the MCW campus on Thursday, October 4, 2012 from 12:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m. The presentation is open to public and media are also invited to attend.

For more information about the Medical Student Summer Research Program, visit http://www.mcw.edu/medicalschool/mssrp.htm.

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