Research Biographies

I spent the summer after my M1 year doing research with Dr. Vanessa Morales-Tirado, an immunologist, at the Hamilton Eye Institute. Her lab focuses on the mechanisms by which intraocular tumors, mainly ocular melanoma and retinoblastoma, evade immunosurveillance and develop metastases. I did not have very much research experience coming into that summer, but I couldn't have asked for a better research advisor from whom to learn about the field. I learned a variety of techniques including cell culture, RNA isolation, PCR, and others. The primary focus of my research was on the role of matrix metalloproteinases (specifically MMP-2 and MMP-9) in the tumorigenesis and metastatic progression of retinoblastoma and uveal melanoma. We worked many long days, but having three other medical students and a laboratory technician there with me made the time fly.

Dr. Morales is very interested in helping me further my career as a physician. Through her connections within the department she was able to organize meetings for me with some of the ophthalmologists working at the Hamilton Eye Institute. I was able to shadow one of the most well-known ophthalmic oncologist in the field, Dr. Matthew Wilson, in the operating room at St. Jude Children's Hospital and the clinic at Hamilton Eye Institute. Additionally, I was able to have a personal meeting with Dr. Edward Chaum who has started several companies by working closely with researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. I was also privileged enough to sit in on some of the research departments weekly journal club meetings where one of the post-doctoral students presented newly published research in their respective area of interest. Dr. Morales's approach to Career Development focused not only the development of my technical skills but also on my interpretation of scientific literature and public speaking ability; all of these skills are important to my future life as a physician .

This research experience opened my eyes to a side of medicine to which I had not previously been exposed. To top it all off, I went from having very little research experience, to now having two publications on the horizon. I highly recommend every medical student consider doing research over the summer following his or her first year.

Anderson Webb
Hamilton Eye Institute, UTHSC

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