Second-year medical student Michael Lin, who studies the use of biologic scaffolds to restore fertility in prepubescent male patients with cancer, presented his research to peers and faculty at the Area of Scholarly Concentration (AoSC) poster session on Friday, October 2.
Lin and his fellow second-year medical students gathered to share the results of their ongoing research projects for the AoSC, a four-year longitudinal project that culminates with a thesis at the end of Feinberg medical students’ fourth year. Project topics ranged from the basic sciences to clinical investigation, including translational medicine, medical humanities and many others.
Working under the mentorship of Teresa Woodruff, PhD, chief of Fertility Preservation in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Lin decided to pursue a basic science project while waiting for the results of his primary AoSC project, which used a survey to analyze how the Oncofertility Consortium website could be improved. The Oncofertility Consortium at Northwestern University represents a national, interdisciplinary initiative to better understand the relationships between health, disease, survivorship and fertility preservation in young cancer patients.
Lin is currently working to find ways to preserve fertility in prepubescent male cancer patients, an area understudied because they are too young to produce viable sperm. Over the summer, he researched ways to use biologic scaffolds composed of the extracellular matrix, a mesh of proteins that provides structure and communication for cells, and worked to optimize conditions for isolating the extracellular matrix of the testes. He hopes in the future the scaffold will be able to grow tissue that produces viable sperm.
Tying his experiences together, Lin is working to translate the biology of sex and reproductive science into engaging and fun lessons as a teaching assistant in a massive open online course (MOOC) on sex education for Northwestern University freshman.
“The MOOC is really helping me develop as a teacher and the research is helping me develop as a scientist,” he said. “As a student doing research you are going out of your comfort zone and experimenting to try to find answers to your questions. The role of research in the curriculum is really important as a future physician, so we can learn critical thinking skills to help us arrive at conclusions when we start treating patients.”
Another second-year medical student working on a basic science project, Lukas Streich, is taking a closer look at the mechanisms behind the cardioprotective effects of moderate alcohol consumption under the mentorship of Alexander Mackie, PhD, research assistant professor of Medicine in the Division of Cardiology.
“I like working on this basic research project because it is something that non-scientists can wrap their head around, something that everyone can relate to,” he said.
Using cultured endothelial cells and mouse models, Streich examined the influence of chronic ethanol exposure on gene expression and how it can modify and impact survival and functional outcomes.
This study found that moderate intake of ethanol could improve cardiac function after an ischemic event, such as a heart attack, in a mouse model. Moving forward, Streich plans to further investigate specific epigenetic targets using cultured cells.
Second-year students will continue working on their projects throughout the year.