HHMI Fellowships offer medical students lab immersion

By Lin Lofley

UT Southwestern Medical School students Nan Guo and Rima Shah have been awarded Medical Research Fellowships from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to pursue a year of intensive research.

Ms. Guo, who recently completed her third year of medical school, and Ms. Shah, who just completed her second year, were among 69 medical, dental, and veterinary students from 32 schools nationwide selected to receive the highly competitive HHMI fellowships. Fellows put their professional education on hold for a year to conduct basic, translational, or applied biomedical research.

“I wanted another extended research experience after learning a little medicine,” said Ms. Guo, who previously spent a year studying autism genetics at the University of Helsinki in Finland.

In the coming year, she will study the engineering of macrophage-enhancing antibodies as new cancer immunotherapies in the laboratory of Dr. Irving Weissman, Director of the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine. She then will return to UT Southwestern for her final year of medical school.

“Medical school gives you a huge breadth of knowledge,” said Ms. Guo, who earned an undergraduate degree in biology at Yale University, “but research gives you an exciting amount of depth and insight into whatever it is that you’re particularly interested in.”

Ms. Guo said she is interested in the fields of dermatology, reproductive endocrinology, and infertility “because those career paths allow you to incorporate research with clinical practice.”

Ms. Shah will research the role of red blood cells in cholesterol homeostasis in the UT Southwestern laboratory of Dr. Helen Hobbs, Director of the Eugene McDermott Center for Human Growth and Development and  an HHMI Investigator.

Ms. Shah conducted research as an undergraduate at Brown University, where she earned a degree in neuroscience. Asked about the demands of a year in the lab, Ms. Shah said it will amount to total immersion.

“Having a year is so exciting. To know that I’ll be able to focus all my energy on one question will be a real learning experience,” she said. “I’m confident that I’ll be able to apply the lessons I learn from this year to any specialty I choose in the future.”

Dr. Hobbs said, “Rima brings to the laboratory an intense interest in science, a strong work ethic, and a desire to tell a scientific story. She is off to a good start.”

Dr. Hobbs holds the Eugene McDermott Distinguished Chair for the Study of Human Growth and Development, the Philip O’Bryan Montgomery Jr., M.D.,
Distinguished Chair in Developmental Biology, and the Dallas Heart Ball Chair in Cardiology Research.

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