Students have IMPACT in Mayo Clinic research program
Five research teams from St. Olaf College were recently recognized for their work at the Innovative Minds Partnering to Advance Curative Therapies (IMPACT) Symposium at Mayo Clinic.
IMPACT, a competition sponsored by Regenerative Medicine Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic Office of Applied Scholarship and Education Science, aims to encourage students to pursue research or careers in medicine.
Faculty-mentored student research teams from Minnesota select one of several given topics, make a research plan, and submit a paper with their findings. From this pool of papers, eight teams per topic are selected to present their research at Mayo Clinic — and this year, five of those teams hailed from St. Olaf.
Research topics this year included causes of hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), ovarian cancer, and non-genetic causes of bipolar disorder. St. Olaf research teams investigated ovarian cancer and HLHS, which is a congenital disease causing an underdeveloped left heart.
“I thought that the IMPACT program would be a great opportunity for me to get my hands on an actual problem in the science world,” says Daniel Hogan ’18, who researched HLHS with Jack Goldstein ’18 and Abhishek Chandra ’18 with the guidance of St. Olaf Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry Dan Everson.
Assistant Professor of Chemistry Dipa Kalyani mentored Brock Carlson ’18, Claire Smith ’18, Eleanor Arnold ’18, Matthew Ramsey ’18, and John Vajgrt ’18 in their research on HLHS. The research projects were student driven — as research teams they created their own hypotheses and research designs.
“The IMPACT program led me to interact with authentic scientific documents, create conclusions based off the accumulated literature, and share our results with the broader scientific community,” says Leah Andrews ’19, who worked with Liamitantsoa Rakotomahenina ’19, Thomas Olson ’19, Andrew Salij ’19, and Pete Smith ’19 under the guidance of Associate Professor of Biology and Department Chair Kim Kandl to investigate HLHS. They earned third place at the IMPACT Symposium.
Kandl also mentored Charlotte Elwell ’17, Zachariah Tritz ’17, Caitlin Van Lith ’17, and Zachary WareJoncas ’17 in their research on ovarian cancer, which tied for second place.
Andrea Studer ’17 teamed with Emily Facile ’17, Megan Braun ’17, Whitney Zenz ’17, and Associate Professor of Chemistry Beth Abdella ’82 to research ovarian cancer. “The complexity of the question grabbed my attention,” Studer says.
The IMPACT experience was valuable to these students because they want to pursue careers as researchers or in medicine. “IMPACT gave me a taste of the medical field and solidified my choice of doing medicine,” Rakotomahenina says.
For Facile, IMPACT was a unique experience in developing a hypothesis and research design. Her research on ovarian cancer is especially meaningful to her.
“I want to be a doctor and the IMPACT project was an interesting way to learn about a real health problem and contribute in some way to the larger world of science,” Facile says. “IMPACT gave me a unique experience to study and learn a lot about a disease that I may one day treat.”