Research Opportunities

In the video above, Haylie Reed, Class of 2018, discusses her experience with the Summer Research Program.


The Summer Research Program at USA provides research experiences for medical students prior to the freshman year of medical school and during the summer between the freshman and sophomore years. In 2018, sixty-nine medical students participated in the program, which provided stipends to participants and culminated with a Medical Student Research Day.

The program also serves as a foundation for medical students who are interested in gaining additional research experience during the subsequent years of medical school. These students are eligible to participate in the M.D. with Research Honors Program.  Participants in the program have cited numerous benefits gained through their involvement.

Carmen Lopez (Class of 2017), had no intentions of pursuing a long term research project when she first entered medical school, but a summer research project changed all that.  After finding a project she truly enjoyed and deciding she wanted to "see it through," she discovered the M.D. with Research Honors.  She believes the program supplements the overall medical student experience, and will contribute greatly to how she practices medicine in the future, adding, "Without this opportunity I would not have been exposed to the process of how medical research occurs and how discoveries are made. It's been a fantastic experience, and I would strongly recommend others also pursue research honors."

Dr. Hayden Hundley (Class of 2015), now a resident in Anesthesiology at UPMC, Pittsburgh, wholeheartedly recommends the program to "all students regardless of future medical specialty or research aspirations. Even a project outside of your specific area of interest will broaden your horizons and teach you critical planning, analytical, and communication skills that will enhance a career in any specialty of the medical field."

The M.D. with Research Honors Program is open to all students in good academic standing who wish to arrange and devote additional time before graduation to their specific research project. With guidance from their mentor, students submit a research proposal and ultimately prepare a publication-ready manuscript on their completed project. Students who satisfactorily complete the requirements will be designated as graduates with "Honors in Research (in a particular subject area)" on their diploma. Students who are currently in the program or have completed the program in the last five years are shown below.

▼   Class of 2021

Erin Schmale
Advisor: Dr. Jonathan Rayner
Departments: Microbiology and Immunology
Project: "Development of Immunologic Assays to Support Clinical Trials of New Vaccines for Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis Virus"

▼   Class of 2020

Dylan Adams
Advisor: Dr. Sarah Sayner
Departments: Physiology and Cell Biology and Center for Lung Biology
Project Title: Regulation of Pulmonary Endothelial Cell Intracellular pH by Sodium proton exchangers (NHEs)

Michael Marfice
Advisor: Dr. Natalie Bauer
Departments: Pharmacology
Project Title: Determination and Characterization of Extracellular Vesicle Populations as Biomarkers of the Severity of Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension

▼   Class of 2017

Carmen Lopez
Advisors: Drs. Silas Leavesley and Thomas Rich
Departments: Chemical Engineering and Pharmacology
Project: "Hyperspectral imaging approaches for endoscopic colon cancer detection"
Residency: Tulane University, Internal Medicine

Megan Zak
Advisors: Dr. Mark Taylor
Department: Physiology and Cell Biology
Project: "Influence of oxytocin-induced release of intracellular calcium stores on KCa2.3 channels in uterine smooth muscle"
Residency: University of Utah, General Surgery

▼   Class of 2015

Hayden Hundley
Advisor: Dr. Hanes Swingle
Department: Pediatrics
Project: "Acquisition of toilet training skills in typical and atypical children"
Residency: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Anesthesiology

▼   Class of 2013

Russell Terry
Advisor: Dr. Petra Rocic
Department: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Project: "Impaired vascular smooth muscle cell apoptosis and excessive proliferation in coronary collateral growth in the metabolic syndrome"
Residency: University of Florida, Urology

William Gannon
Advisor: Dr. Hanes Swingle
Department: Pediatrics
Project: "Craniofacial dysmorphism and developmental disorders among children with chromosomal microdeletions and duplications of unknown significance"
Residency: UAB, Ophthalmology

▼   Class of 2012

Luke Wiggins
Advisor: Dr. Petra Rocic
Department: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Project: "Role of matrix metalloproteinases in coronary collateral growth"
Residency: University of Southern California, Thoracic Surgery

Andrew Vincent
Advisor: Dr. Lalita Shevde-Samant
Department: USA Mitchell Cancer Institute
Project: "Understanding the diametric role of NUPR1 in human breast cancer"
Residency: University of Tennessee, Radiology