Peter A. Kassis-Akal graduated from the University of Minnesota with a B.A. in Physiology/ Chemistry minor. During his undergraduate education, he participated in chemistry research that dealt with organometallics and he also participated in ovarian cancer immunotherapy research. This summer, Peter joined Dr. Thomas Griffith’s lab to investigate the composition and magnitude of the early, innate immune response in the peritoneum of SPF (specific pathogen-free) and CoH (co-housed) mice following induction of polymicrobial-induced peritonitis using a cecal slurry model.
Baila Elkin graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Biology. Her previous research focused on molecular biology involving nuclear positioning and movement in cells. Baila joined the Khoruts lab this summer to work on characterizing gut microbial drivers of H2S production. She worked on developing and optimizing a method that controlled for variability in numbers of microbes, as well as obtaining results indicating that H2S production is primarily a protein-degradation driven process rather than a sulfate-reduction driven one.
Alexis Gannon graduated from Bucknell University with a degree in Neuroscience. Her previous research experience includes neuroblastoma research at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia as well as studying pediatric transplant outcomes with the University of Minnesota Department of Surgery. This summer, she worked with Dr. Yoji Shimizu studying the use of IL-12 in ex vivo re-expansion in a mouse model of adoptive CD8+ T cell transfer, including its effects on proliferation, cytotoxic effector phenotype, and tissue residency.
Paul McClure studied Biochemistry at the University of Michigan, where he earned his BS in 2018. This summer, he worked with Dr. Jeffrey Miller and Upasana Arvindam to characterize the function of Natural Killer cells in various biologically relevant settings. Paul’s project focused on the cytokine secretion profile of Natural Killer cells and the effect that hypoxia had on altering that profile. Paul will continue working with the Miller lab on harnessing the potential of NK cells as a cell-based therapy for cancer and would like to express his tremendous gratitude to the entirety of the Miller Lab for being so welcoming and willing to teach over the course of the T35 summer program. Eventually, he hopes to practice clinical oncology and help to recruit a more diverse patient population into trials of new cancer therapies so that their promise can continue to reach more patients who might benefit from them.
Taylor Mesojednik graduated from Whitman College and then worked on research on neonatal neuroprotective therapy at the University of Washington and Chimeric Antigen Receptor T Cell therapy at Seattle Children’s Hospital for 5 years before entering medical school. This summer Taylor worked in Dr. Ingunn Stromnes’ Lab investigating the efficacy of IL-2 and IL-15 cytokine-complex therapy on tumor progression in a murine model of Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma.
Pavithra Ramakrishnan did her undergrad in TNAU, India, and Masters in biomedical engineering at Drexel University, PA. She worked on TB pathogenesis in Dr.Anna Tischler's laboratory and antimicrobial drug development at Merck-Exploratory science center prior to medical school. Pavithra joined the laboratory of Dr. Kirsten Nielsen this summer and worked on host-pathogen interaction and dissemination pathways in Cryptococcal meningitis. Her focus was on delineating the adaptive and immune cell mediators in the Th2 mediated immune response evoked by Cryptococcus neoformans using an in vivo acute infection model.
Following his graduation from Northwestern University with a BA in Biological Sciences and Neuroscience, Santana Sanchez spent one year investigating the cellular mechanisms of neurodegeneration at the Feinberg School of Medicine. This summer Santana joined the Farrar Lab and worked to establish a murinized BCR-ABL+ B cell lymphoblastic leukemia cell line. This model builds on the work previously done in the Farrar lab and will allow the group to further investigate novel immune-based therapies for the treatment of B-ALL.
Julia Weston graduated from St. Olaf College with a double major in Biology and Spanish. During her time at St. Olaf, she completed a research project examining the benefits of providing free Hepatitis B vaccines to inmates in the Hennepin County Adult Detention Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After graduating, she worked for several years at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health on the NET-Works study, which examined the relationship between nutrition, neighborhood livability, physical activity, parenting, and screen time to executive functioning, academic achievement and Body Mass Index among low-income children living in the Twin Cities. Her interest in Public Health brought her to work in Dr. Marco Pravetoni's lab this summer to study the role of IgG subclasses and Fc receptors in a vaccine against opioids as an alternative treatment for Opioid Use Disorder(OUD) as well as a preventative method for opioid overdose. She also studied the frequency of opioid-specific B cells between individuals with a diagnosis of OUD vs. opioid-naive individuals with the ultimate goal of sequencing the opioid-specific B cell receptor for the eventual generation of monoclonal antibodies as another treatment for OUD as well as opioid overdose rescue.
If you are interested in learning more about the Summer Medical Student Research Program, or if you are interested in learning more about a particular research project done by one of our Mescher Scholars, please contact the program directorDaniel Mueller