Danielle Cunningham realized early in medical school her desire to care for cancer patients, children in particular. So when the fourth-year medical student began exploring the identifying features of astroblastoma, a rare form of brain tumor found predominantly in children, it became more than just a research project.
“This tumor has kind of become my baby,” Cunningham said. “I’m going to continue doing research on this tumor. It’s something that I feel really passionate about.”
A research poster that Cunningham presented identifying critical radiological features of astroblastoma won first place in the medical student section of the annual Health Sciences Student Research Summit. Lisa Lowe, M.D., professor and chair of radiology, and Natasha Acosta, M.D., assistant professor of radiology, served as Cunningham’s faculty mentors.
“The idea of curing cancer and working with cancer patients is something that’s appealing to me,” she said. “I want to have a career that works with this.”
Students from the schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Biological Sciences, and Computing and Engineering participated in the event at the Student Union. The School of Medicine had its largest research day presentation to date with 34 posters from 32 students.
Gaurav Anand, fourth-year student, received the second prize for his poster presentation, Pharmacological Control Of Oxidative Stress-mediated Effects on Endocannabinoid Signaling Pathways. Sixth-year student Chelsea Shapland, presented the third-place poster, Fibroblast growth factor 23 (FGF23) Increases Cardiac Contractility and Induces Cardiac Mechanical Alternans which are Eliminated by FGFR4 Antibody Treatment and a PLC Inhibitor.
Shapland learned one of the pitfalls of research when efforts to reproduce the results her research mentor had previously achieved in his laboratory fell short. She shifted her focus, however, and eventually created a new model for testing a drug treatment that produced more data.
“It was frustrating not being able to reproduce what others had done before,” she said. “But once I was able to switch gears and focus all of my efforts on this new model, it was really satisfying to be able to come up with something on my own rather than doing what other people had done.”
Shapland said the experience taught her the necessity of being flexible when conducting research.
“My biggest takeaway is that things don’t always go as planned,” she said. “You just have to keep moving forward and hopefully things will work out. Definitely, don’t give up.”
Shilpa Babar, M.D., a maternal-fetal medicine fellow, received the graduate students’ first prize for her presentation, Acute Fetal Behavioral Response to Prenatal Yoga: A Single Blinded, Randomized Controlled Trial (TRY Yoga).
The awards are provided in memory of former School of Medicine faculty member Loredana Brizio Molteni, M.D., F.A.C.S.
Visit the Student Research web page for a full list of medical students who participated, along with their posters presented and their faculty mentors.