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Pre‑med students research health and science topics in summer

Student Christine Pham and her faculty mentor Solmaz Amiri in the Health Equity Analytics Lab collaborate over Zoom.
Student Christine Pham and her faculty mentor Solmaz Amiri in the Health Equity Analytics Lab collaborate over Zoom.

Tapping their critical-thinking and problem-solving skills and building their resumes, four Washington State University Honors College pre-med students are spending their summer researching topics ranging from a female gynecological disorder to U.S. minority mortality rates, and from cannabis use to infectious diseases.

They are the first participants in Honors’ new Medical Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (MedSURE) held in conjunction with the Honors Pathway Program. That is a partnership with the WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine.

To support their summer work, the students each received funding from a $50,000 grant awarded to Honors through WSU’s inaugural Cougar Cage competition in spring.

“Ultimately, we will use the grant funding to support 10 Honors Pathway, or pre-Pathway, students who wish to conduct research in biomedical fields,” said Robin Bond, assistant dean.

“Research is a remarkable way for our undergraduate pre-med students to understand how scientists work on problems, learn to integrate theory and practice, and clarify their career path, among many other benefits,” said Dean M. Grant Norton.

“The overall impact this grant will have on these future medical professionals will be tremendous. It will extend beyond WSU to our state, nation, and world.”

The 2021 MedSURE scholarship recipients, their mentors, and project summaries are:

  • Madeleine Harvey

    Mentor: Kanako Hayashi
    Researching endometriosis in females and associated pain

  • Christine Pham

    Mentor: Solmaz Amiri
    Researching data on racial and ethnic minorities’ mortality rates

  • Abigail Rossi

    Mentor: Ryan McLaughlin
    Examining sex differences in the long-term effects of adolescent cannabis use on cognitive flexibility

  • Evelyn Rowe

    Mentor: Alan Goodman
    Researching West Nile virus and insulin dependent infection

About this series

The Cougar Cage competition is a new way for WSU students, faculty and staff to secure private donor support through the Palouse Club for worthwhile projects that can help build the continued success of the University.

This series explores the first six projects to survive the competition and win funding from the group.

Modeled after the popular TV show Shark Tank, the first Cougar Cage match concluded in March. Future rounds are being planned.

Having the award allows them to focus fully on their research while still furthering their academic pursuits and keeping an eye toward their future. The researchers spend around 40 hours each week devoted to their projects.

Harvey said, “The award allowed me to cover living expenses and stay in Pullman to continue the research I began with Dr. Hayashi nearly a year ago. Because I’m considering becoming a family physician focused on obstetrics and gynecology, I find the topic of endometriosis very interesting. I also plan to use the information for my required Honors thesis.”

Pham, a new graduate and member of Pathway, is taking a gap year before medical school. Research she conducted in 2019 with Amiri was on sexually transmitted infections in Yakima County and led to a co-authorship on a paper published in an academic journal. Pham was excited to work with her mentor again this year thanks to the Honors award.

She said, “I’m interested in becoming a public health physician, and this summer research is very valuable. It’s important for doctors to understand the data side of the profession as well as the people side.”

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