Medical School Class of 2021
My connection to research at UT Southwestern began with the Summer Research Program, which I participated in following my first year of medical school. I joined the lab of Dr. Stephen Skapek in the department of Pediatric Oncology. My project was focused on oncogene-induced senescence; we were using a mouse model of pinealoblastoma to study the necessity of p53 to induce and maintain a senescent phenotype in cells overexpressing Cyclin D1.
I processed and sectioned brains taken from these mice and stained them for markers of proliferation and senescence. I absolutely loved this project, and my experience drove me to seek out more involved opportunities.
Dedicated year of research
This search led me to find the HHMI Medical Fellows program, which allowed for a dedicated year of research. After my third year of medical school, I joined the lab of Dr. Hao Zhu, where I studied (and continue to study) factors impacting fatty liver disease and liver regeneration. My first project focused on ARID1A, a gene involved in chromatin remodeling as part of the SWI/SNF complex, and its connection to fatty liver disease.
Six months into my research year, I decided to transfer into the M.D./Ph.D. program and extend my research training. I was able to publish my first project in December 2018, and have now moved on to several other related projects.
Research opportunities make lasting impact
UT Southwestern’s opportunities for medical student research have had a deep impact on my future career trajectory. When I began medical school, I had some idea that I was interested in research, but I did not think it would be a part of my clinical practice. The Summer Research Program rekindled my love for basic research, which led me to seek out more dedicated training such as the HHMI Medical Fellows program.
The ability to step away from clinical training to focus entirely on science was transformative, and it was during that year that I began to truly consider integrating research into my future career. I also realized that the quality of my training environment was such that I wanted to take full advantage of my time there, which is what led me to pursuing a Ph.D.
After graduation, I plan to move on to a pediatric residency and an oncology fellowship, with the eventual goal of running a basic science research laboratory alongside a clinical practice. Without the guidance of medical student research, including fantastic training environments, dedicated and committed faculty, and top-notch science, I don’t know that I would have ever considered such a path.
– Austin Moore, Medical School Class of 2021