As part of our ongoing series on the role undergraduate students play in Internal Medicine research, we are pleased to feature a few individual students’ stories.
With more than 20 current undergraduate researchers, one of the best on-campus research opportunities for an aspiring physician scientist is in the lab of E. Dale Abel, MD, PhD. Although the lab could get very crowded, according to undergraduate Rana Hewezi, the extra company was all the more inspiring.
“It’s such a unique opportunity to share the same space, and often, lab bench, as other individuals who have very similar goals and interests as yourself. It’s also a great place to advance your research interests,” Hewezi said, adding that the Abel lab mentors are deeply experienced and provide lots of resources to enhance undergraduate success.
Hewezi’s mentor in the lab, Renata Pereira Alambert, PhD, research assistant professor in Endocrinology and Metabolism, provided Hewezi with daily assignments. Hewezi learned to perform everything from polymerase chain reactions, Western Blots, mice husbandry, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays, glucose tolerance tests, and tissue harvests.
“I was intrigued by the medical relevance of this research. My research was also easily applicable to my studies, which center on metabolism, biochemical processes, and energy conservation. The lab functioned to reveal the applications of my class content and the ongoing obstacles that remain in both medicine and research in relation to metabolic deficiencies,” Hewezi said.
During the spring semester of her freshman year, Hewezi connected with Abel’s lab through the Iowa Center for Research by Undergraduates (ICRU), a program focused on finding research opportunities for interested undergraduates. Hewezi has since left the lab to intern at St. Jude’s Research Hospital and develop her writing skills as an intern at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Additionally, Hewezi serves as an ICRU ambassador helping other undergraduates find appropriate positions within Iowa’s large research network.
“[ICRU] was a great complement to my interest in research, which allowed me to make sense of my immediate environment in addition to the rest of humanity by offering a unique, applicable perspective that the classroom does not provide to the same degree,” Hewezi said. “Being an ICRU Research Ambassador further permits me to have a unique space where I can nerd out with others who feel as passionately about the limits of our own intellect.”