Public Release: 

Boston University students awarded fellowships by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Boston University Medical Center

(Boston)--Two medical students from Boston University have been selected by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to conduct full-time biomedical research in its Medical Research Fellows Program. Joseph Park and Jacqueline Estevez are two of the selected 68 top medical and veterinary students from 37 different schools in the United States to receive this honor. The $2.8 million annual initiative is designed to develop the next generation of physician-scientists by giving the students a full year of mentored research training with some of the nation's top biomedical scientists.

This program allows medical, dental and veterinary students to pursue biomedical research at academic or nonprofit research institutions anywhere in the United States except the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland or other federal agencies. The fellows put their medical school coursework on hold, and spend a year immersed in basic, translational or applied biomedical research. Each student applied with a mentor of his/her choice and submitted a research proposal.

Park will working at Brigham and Women's Hospital under Dr. Matthew Waldor, an HHMI investigator who studies the microbiology of the enteric Vibrio bacteria species. His research will focus on Vibrio parahaemolyticus, which is the leading cause of seafood-borne gastroenteritis worldwide. He will be using a novel genome editing method called CRISPR to identify the human genetic determinants of infection by V. parahaemolyticus.

Estevez will be conducting translational research in the lab of Dr. Mindie Nguyen at Stanford University School of Medicine. She will be comparing long-term treatment outcomes and cytokine profiles (biochemical signaling molecules that circulate in blood) in patients with chronic hepatitis B and C infection who have developed liver cancer. The ultimate goal is to use a patient's individual cytokine profile to predict how well they will respond to different treatments.

Of the 68 selected, 22 medical fellows will work in the laboratories of HHMI investigators, and one student will work with a researcher at the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV (K-RITH), an independent research institute established in Durban, South Africa through the collaborative efforts of HHMI and the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

"We are extremely pleased that two of our medical students have been chosen for this opportunity," said Karen Antman, MD, dean of Boston University School of Medicine and provost of Boston University Medical Campus. "They will receive mentored research training from some of the nation's top biomedical scientists.

The Medical Research Fellows Program has funded more than 1,600 students since it was established by HHMI 26 years ago.

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