Learning from Lungs

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CATEGORY: Internships
TYPE: Articles
RELATED PROGRAMS: Biology

By | Katie Cicolello ’14
Rockford, Illinois
Biology

“Seeing patients who could benefit from our pulmonary research was extremely motivating.”

I experienced the world of biomedical research while exploring the clinical side of medicine, thanks to Macalester’s Academic Health Sciences Summer Research Program (AHSSRP). My mentor was Peter Bitterman, a physician-scientist at the University of Minnesota with an active research lab.

Dr. Bitterman’s research is on Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF), a disease characterized by the thickening of a patient’s airways. There is no known cause or cure, and roughly 40,000 patients die of this disease each year in the U.S.

In seeking to discover the cause of this disease, I studied the effect of the lungs’ extracellular matrix on cellular proliferation in IPF. We received post-surgical lung tissue samples from patients, which I learned how to decellularize and culture. Although much more research is needed, I hope that my work will help inform those future projects.

I loved how AHSSRP balanced research with clinical experiences. Dr. Bitterman is a practicing pulmonologist, and once a week I shadowed him in his clinic. Seeing patients who could benefit from our research was extremely motivating. Through connections within the program I also arranged to shadow doctors in other specialties, experiences that have helped inform my career decisions.

I was lucky to find AHSSRP, like so many other opportunities, through my Macalester professors. When I couldn’t decide between a clinical and a research job this summer, my advisor suggested this program that blended the two. I’m so fortunate for having had this opportunity.

PUBLISHED: 01/22/2014