Undergrads in Green Fellows Program Wrap Up Semester of Individual, In-Depth Research Projects
Jun. 11, 2012
Daniela Hagenasr, a junior biology major, studied corneal wound healing with Dr. Matthew Petroll in the ophthalmology department at UT Southwestern.
Kaleb Lambeth, a UT Dallas student majoring in biology spent his spring semester trying to mend broken hearts – with science.
Lambeth is one of 19 UT Dallas undergraduates who, as Green Fellows, spent a semester performing full-time research with faculty members at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
Lambeth worked in the laboratory of Dr. Eric Olson, chairman of molecular biology at UT Southwestern, who has made major strides in using genetic techniques to reprogram cells called fibroblasts into cardiac cells. The process might one day be developed into a treatment to help form new heart muscle after a heart attack.
Kaleb Lambeth, a junior in biology, conducted research related to heart disease in Dr. Eric Olson’s molecular biology laboratory at UT Southwestern.
“The heart cannot regenerate heart muscle cells to restore its pump function after a heart attack,” said Lambeth, who plans to attend medical school and whose research included cloning proteins that are key to the cells’ transformation process. “There is great demand to develop therapeutic strategies to build new heart muscle.”
Green Fellows spend 16 weeks pursuing individual research projects under the direction of UT Southwestern faculty. Fellows receive a stipend of $4,000 and spend the entire term focused on research rather than splitting their time between classes and the lab. The 2012 fellows presented their scientific findings at a recent poster presentation at UT Southwestern.
“There are many benefits to both institutions, but the biggest benefit is to the students,” said Dr. A. Dean Sherry, professor of chemistry and holder of a Cecil H. and Ida Green Distinguished Chair in Systems Biology Science at UT Dallas. He also is director of the Advanced Imaging Research Center located at UT Southwestern.
Johanan Rodriguez, a senior in electrical engineering, spent his semester conducting prosthetics research in Dr. Fan Gao’s lab at UT Southwestern.
“Most Green Fellows are making major decisions at this stage of their lives – some are driven to go to medical school, but very few have had the opportunity to think about research as a career path,” Sherry said. “These kids are curious, innocent and sometimes naïve, but they are also energetic and willing to try most anything to find a solution to a problem. They are willing to take chances and often try experiments not considered by a mentor.”
Now in its seventh year, the Green Fellows program has supported a wide variety of research topics, including cancer, heart disease, eating disorders, neuroscience, fat metabolism and wound healing in the eye.
Sherry co-directs the program with Dr. Nancy Street, associate dean of the Southwestern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Street said the range of research topics, and the type of students accepted, have expanded greatly since the program began. In 2007, the program required Green Fellows to be biochemistry majors at UT Dallas. Today, students in cognitive science, physics, computer science, electrical engineering, psychology, biology, bioengineering and chemistry also can apply.
Johanan Rodriguez, a senior in electrical engineering, spent his semester doing prosthetics research in Dr. Fan Gao’s lab within the UT Southwestern School of Health Professions. It’s the first prosthetics project tackled by a Green Fellow.
“This semester of research was a learning experience,” Rodriguez said. “It was the first time I had ever done any kind of research, and I was exposed to all phases of the research process. This semester only solidified the fact that I definitely want to apply my engineering degree to the health field.”
Street said the fellowship provides sufficient time for the students to contribute to the work of their mentor’s lab, in some cases in a very significant way.
“The intellect and enthusiasm that Green Fellows bring to their research labs is acknowledged and sought after by the UT Southwestern faculty,” she said. “As UT Southwestern continues to expand its research areas, Green Fellows have the opportunity to select from a broad range of fields and contribute to world-class, cutting-edge research.”
Top row: Kyle Bruner, Harold Lee, Andrew Sohn, Sasha Burrowes
Fourth row: Kyle Owens, Kaleb Lambeth, Johanan Rodriguez, Elizabeth Hanacik
Third row: Joshua John, James Juhng, Truc Do
Second row: Derek Nguyen, Nadia Kasim, Marissa Co, Isis Lopez, Katherine Bierschenk
Front row: Victoria Lee, Daniela Hagenasr, Rachel Pylate
2012 Green Fellows
Following are the 2012 Green Fellows with their UT Southwestern mentors:
Dr. Kathlynn Brown
Joshua Kyle Bruner
Dr. Jeffery Cadeddu
Dr. Mark Henkemeyer
Dr. Genevieve Konopka
Dr. Andrew Zinn
Dr. Matthew Petroll
Dr. Robin Hiesinger
Dr. Joachim Herz
Dr. Connie Hsia
Dr. Juan Pascual
Dr. Eric Olson
Dr. Roger Chan
Dr. John Minna
Dr. Nancy Monson
Dr. Robert Bachoo
Dr. Uttam Tambar
Dr. John MacMillan
Dr. Fan Gao
Dr. Adrian Rothenfluh