University of Vermont

University Communications

M.D.-Ph.D. Students Shine at Research Conference

Release Date: 04-17-2009

Author: Jennifer Nachbur
Phone: 802/656-7875 Fax: 802-656-3961

The University of Vermont M.D.-Ph.D. program was well represented at the second annual Student Research Conference, held April 16 at UVM's Dudley H. Davis Center. Six students from different levels of the program participated, delivering oral and poster presentations focused on a variety of biomedical science topics, in the day-long event.

Using a multidisciplinary approach that intertwines science and technology with clinical training, UVM's M.D.-Ph.D. program trains future physician-scientists for careers in academic medicine and research. M.D.-Ph.D. students spend the first two years studying the College of Medicine's Vermont Integrated Curriculum with M.D. students, then devote their third through sixth years to conducting the research for their Ph.D. theses, followed by completion of their medical education. The students' current research was highlighted at the conference.

Four years into her doctoral research and six years in the M.D.-Ph.D. program, Wendy Neveu has been working in the lab of mentor Mercedes Rincon, Ph.D., associate professor of medicine, investigating inflammatory responses in the lung. She delivered a poster titled "The Role of IL-6 in the Development of Aspergillus Fumigatus Induced Airway Inflammation."

Now in her fifth year of the program and third year conducting doctoral research under the mentorship of Elizabeth Bonney, M.D., associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences, Michelle Norton's work focuses on immunologic adaptations during pregnancy. She delivered an oral presentation on "CD8+ T cell Proliferative Capacity is Maintained During Pregnancy" at the conference.

Third-year M.D.-Ph.D. students Leah Novinger and Jessica Cassavaugh delivered oral presentations at the conference. Novinger is studying breast cancer drug development with her mentor David Krag, M.D., S.D. Ireland Professor of Surgery. Her oral presentation at the conference was titled "Construction and Application of a Protein Expression Library from Human Breast Cancer Tissue." Currently working with Karen Lounsbury, Ph.D., associate professor of pharmacology, Cassavaugh recently completed a researcher rotation focused on melanoma metastasis with former UVM faculty member Marcus Bosenberg, M.D., Ph.D. Her oral presentation at the conference was titled "Hypoxia Inducible Factor-1a (HIF-1a) Interaction with E3Ubiquitin Ligases in Hypoxia."

Additional oral and poster presentations were delivered by third-year students Rebecca Martin and John DeWitt. Martin, whose mentor is Cory Teuscher, Ph.D., professor of medicine, is examining the genes involved in infectious and autoimmune diseases. Her oral presentation at the conference was titled "Central Histamine H3 Receptor Mediated Regulation of CD4 T-cell Responses Occurs in the Absence of Lymph Node Innervations." Dewitt, working with mentor Rae Nishi, Ph.D., professor of anatomy and neurobiology, presented a poster titled "Ciliary Neurotrophic Factor Promotes Survival, Differentiation, and Process Outgrowth in a Murine Model of Neuroblastoma." His research has also focused on the role of fibroblast growth factors in multiple sclerosis.

A total of 26 students are currently enrolled in UVM's M.D.-Ph.D. program.