2012 Grant Recipients


Research Scholar Award Recipients (3)

imgKara Gross Margolis, MD
Columbia University, New York, NY

“I am truly honored to receive the 2012 the AGA Research Scholar Award. I am grateful to the selection committee for their recognition in my work and the Foundation members who generously contributed to fund this award. This funding will facilitate the development of my career from a junior physician-scientist to an independent investigator by providing more protected research time.

My field of study focuses on the roles that the enteric nervous system (ENS) plays in intestinal inflammatory disease. The ENS regulates and coordinates almost all aspects of gut function including motility, secretion, production of cytokines, and the regulation of epithelial barrier function.  Further, it is well known that the ENS interacts extensively with the innate and adaptive immune systems.   These functions are compromised in IBD, implying a strong connection between ENS function and both the symptoms and underlying pathophysiology of IBD. A common finding in Crohn’s disease is increased neuronal density within inflamed intestinal segments. Despite these findings, the association between ENS hyperplasia and intestinal inflammation remains unexplained. We have recently found that mice with hyperinnervated intestines develop significantly more severe chemically induced inflammation than wild-type littermates, and mice with hypo-innervated intestines are more resistant to both forms of inflammation.  Our findings thus support the hypothesis that enteric neuronal hyperplasia is a predisposing factor for intestinal inflammation. We will now investigate the putative linkage of ENS hyperplasia to intestinal inflammation. We will test hypotheses that ENS hyperplasia initiates abnormalities in immune function and/or alterations of mucosal barrier function, either of which increases the susceptibility of the bowel to inflammation. Defining the mechanisms that link enteric neurons to the severity of intestinal inflammation has the potential to transform the paradigms by which intestinal disorders are not only understood but also have the potential to transform the manner by which intestinal disorders are investigated, and ultimately treated.”

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imgRobert E. Schwartz, MD, PhD
Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA

It is an honor to be selected to receive the American Gastroenterological Association Research Scholar Award. I would like to thank the American Gastroenterology Association Research Foundation and foundation donors for their generous support of my work as I begin my academic career. This proposal entitled ”Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells, a new paradigm in the study of liver disease” is centered on the study of stem cell derived hepatocytes and establishing this system as a new platform for the study of liver disease. Pluripotent stem cells such as induced pluripotent stem cells can be generated in a reliable manner and have been shown to differentiate efficiently into hepatocyte-like cells. Unfortunately, the hepatocyte-like cells that are generated have a fetal phenotype limiting their clinical and scientific utility. Utilizing varying engineering techniques including microfabrication and multiplexed extracellular matrix arrays we will identify matrixes and nonparenchymal cells that support and enhance hepatic differentiation to better mimic the embryologic process thereby enabling the production of terminally differentiated hepatocyte-like cells. This platform will also enable the study of cell-cell and cell-ECM interactions in the stem cell differentiation process. Terminally differentiated induced pluripotent stem cell derived hepatocyte-like cells will then serve as a new paradigm for hepatocyte study. We will focus on hepatitis C viral infection. The development of an iPSC-derived HCV model has the potential to further elucidate the role of host factors on disease pathogenesis and alter our understanding of HCV biology and clinical therapy. As a consequence of the support of the AGA Research Scholar Award, I will have the opportunity and time to continue on this work and hope to develop new tools to study liver biology and development.

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imgShehzad Z. Sheikh, MD, PhD
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC

"I would like to thank the AGA Research Foundation for this generous award. As a physician scientist I have spent over a decade studying host-microbial interactions. With the help of this award I will further develop the work that I started as a post doctoral fellow while expanding my training by bringing high throughput functional genomics technologies that are revolutionizing the diagnosis and management of other diseases (e.g. cancer) into Inflammatory Bowel Disease research. As I transition to a junior faculty appointment at UNC School of Medicine, I am dedicated to improving the quality of life of people with IBD. With decades of research and still no firm answers to what causes IBD, as my career advances, my goal is to contribute to understanding IBD pathogenesis by utilizing the latest technologies to overcome barriers that have hindered research progress.”

“IBD results from an inappropriately directed inflammatory response to the enteric microbiota in a genetically susceptible host. My project will help better understand the role of an important cell of the immune system, the macrophage, in IBD. Macrophages are specialized cells that attack foreign substances, such as bacteria that live in the intestine through ingestion and destruction. Compared to macrophages in any other organ in the body, gut macrophages are quite different. In health, they can effectively kill intestinal bacteria without causing unnecessary damage to the surrounding healthy tissue. This is a result of the maintenance of a fine balance between the production of inflammatory substances which are necessary to kill bacteria and anti-inflammatory substances which are important to prevent damage to the intestine. If this balance between inflammatory and anti-inflammatory substance production by macrophages is disrupted, IBD may result. My project will define how these important controllers of inflammation are turned on and off in macrophages.”

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Fellowship to Faculty Transition Award Recipients (2)

imgLaren S. Becker, MD, PhD
Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA

Thank you to the AGA Research Foundation for selecting me as a recipient of the Fellowship to Faculty Transition Award.  My career goal is to become an independent investigator and this award provides valuable support as I establish myself as a physician-scientist in the field of neurogastroenterology.  Neurodegenerative disorders of the gut are debilitating and current therapies are limited.  However, stem cell research offers the prospect of novel and better therapies through regenerative medicine. I am interested in the tantalizing possibility that aging affects the capacity of stem cells to regenerate and that this contributes to the decline in gastrointestinal function we so often encounter in the elderly. An in-depth understanding of the molecular underpinnings of stem cell biology may allow us to “set back the clock” to restore older stem cells to their youthful vigor.  My goal is to investigate the interplay between aging and enteric neural stem cells, and how this relates to disease.  Specifically, I plan to explore whether aging causes intrinsic changes to stem cell biology that disrupts their regenerative capacity, and whether caloric restriction reverses these changes through a defined signaling pathway. I believe discoveries from this research will enhance our understanding of aging in the enteric nervous system and lay the foundation for future studies to discover new leads for drugs that could delay or reverse the effects of aging and study the role of enteric neural stem cells in other disease states.

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imgRandy S. Longman, MD, PhD
Columbia University, New York, NY

I am honored to receive the 2012 Fellowship to Faculty Transition Award from the AGA Research Foundation.  This award will provide me with protected research time to develop experimental systems and acquire the knowledge necessary to transition from a research fellow to an independent physician-scientist.  The focus of my proposal is to characterize an emerging class of innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) that regulate intestinal inflammation in IBD.  My proposal aims not only to characterize the activity of these cells in active IBD compared to non-IBD control patients, but also to isolate enough of these cells to sequence all of the genes that they express. This data will give us a genetic "roadmap" to identify the critical features of these cells as well potential targets for therapy.  Moreover, this work will assess the interaction of intestinal bacteria with ILCs.  Using biopsy samples from patients and advanced sequencing techniques to index all the bacteria attached to the intestinal mucosa, this proposal offers to characterize microbes and microbial communities important in ILC activation. Using “germ-free” mice, as well as mice with specific genetic mutations available in our lab, we ultimately hope to determine the particular signaling pathways required for ILC activation. These studies will provide important insights into the therapeutic manipulation of ILCs in the clinical
management of IBD.

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R. Robert & Sally D. Funderburg Research Award in Gastric Biology Related to Cancer Recipient (1)

imgAdam J. Bass, MD
Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA

I am tremendously grateful to the American Gastroenterological Association for giving me the honor of this year’s Funderburg Award in gastric cancer biology.  As a medical oncologist I have witnessed first hand the horrible burden of this disease and our urgent need to make progress in our ability to prevent, detect and treat gastric cancer.   My research uses the characterization of the cancer genome as a starting point for studying these tumors.  The recent technological revolution in our ability to sequence and characterize the DNA from cancer samples is truly revolutionary and is already providing enormous new insights into the biology of these tumors and the identification of therapeutic targets.  With projects such as those from The Cancer Genome Atlas, we will soon have an enormous wealth of data.  Taking key findings from these studies into the laboratory will be essential to enable us to build off descriptive genomics and define new ways to prevent and treat these cancers.  With this support from the AGA, my laboratory at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute will be follow upon new results from these studies with immediate potential translational relevance to the care of patients with gastric cancer.

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Emmet B. Keeffe Award in Translational or Clinical Research in Liver Disease (1)

imgMina O. Rakoski, MD
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

It is a great honor to have been chosen by the American Gastroenterology Association Research Foundation as the first recipient of the Emmet B. Keeffe Award in Translational or Clinical Research in Liver Disease.  Dr Keeffe was an extraordinary clinician, teacher, and mentor as well as husband, father, and grandfather. I had the honor of meeting his wife, children, and grandchildren at DDW in San Diego. I hope to carry on his legacy with reverence and enthusiasm.

The prevalence of cirrhosis among older adults is expected to increase, in part due to the rising incidence of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and the aging of the hepatitis C population. Therefore, hepatologists will inevitably need to face the challenges of caring for elderly patients with cirrhosis. Little is known about the complex psychosocial and age-related changes that contribute to mortality in this population.  The goal of this proposal is to determine predictors of liver and non liver-related mortality among elderly patients with cirrhosis and to assess the validity of MELD for predicting mortality in this population. This information is critical to help balance decisions regarding goals of care and aggressiveness of liver-related therapies in the elderly.

I have just completed my Transplant Hepatology Fellowship and am excited to continue investigating the aging cirrhosis population as junior faculty with a joint appointment in Geriatrics. The Emmet B. Keeffe Award will provide protected time and support so that I can build a solid foundation in aging-related research, develop meaningful and productive collaborations with geriatric and palliative care investigators, and pursue my goal of becoming an independently successful researcher.

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June & Donald O. Castell, MD Esophageal Clinical Research Award Recipient (1)

imgEvan S. Dellon, MD, MPH
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC

I am honored to receive the 2012 AGA-June and Donald O. Castell, MD, Esophageal Clinical Research Award.  As a junior faculty member with a clinical and research focus on eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), this award will affect my research and career development in several important ways.  First, it will support a project, “Validation of mast-cell tryptase staining for diagnosis of EoE,” that addresses an important question related to EoE diagnosis.  Because mast cells are thought to contribute to the pathogenesis of EoE, but not other conditions that can cause esophageal eosinophilia such as reflux disease, they hold promise as a tissue-specific biomarker.  The aims of this study are to validate the use of mast cell tryptase for diagnosis of EoE by performing immunohistochemistry on esophageal biopsies from patients with EoE compared with GERD patients and non-EoE controls; and to determine whether the esophageal mast cell count differentiates patients with EoE from those with esophageal eosinophilia who respond to PPI therapy.  Second, it allows me to begin to utilize the EoE patient registry and bio-repository that I have been developing during the early part of my career.  Third, it provides an opportunity for me to continue to develop familiarity with translational research techniques and work toward my goal of combining these techniques with epidemiologic, clinical, and endoscopic research methods.  Finally, during the course of this project, I will be able to continue to work with my outstanding mentors, Drs. Nicholas Shaheen, Robert Sandler, and Susan Henning. 

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Elsevier Pilot Research Award Recipient (1)

imgXiaonan Han, PhD
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH

It is a great honor for our proposal to receive the AGA Elsevier Pilot Award, and we appreciate this support very much. It was recently reported that intestinal stem cells have a better potential in the intestinal replacement therapy, but lack of fundamental mechanisms and effective approaches significantly block the development of intestinal stem cell treatment for IBD. Here, we propose a new mechanism for a proof-ofconcept of a novel tissue therapy. JAK-STAT activation was suggested to drive the renewal of intestinal epithelial cells and promote mucosal healing. We therefore hypothesize that JAK-STAT signaling controls stem cell activity via regulation of stem cell genes to promote intercellular junction formation. To test our hypothesis, we will, first, determine the role of JAK-STAT signaling for stem cell differentiation. Second, we will define the requirement of JAK-STAT signaling for development of intestinal epithelial monolayers. Overall, our studies will demonstrate an essential role for JAK-STAT signaling in the regulation of stem cell homeostasis, and will explore a novel engineered tissue therapy for IBD that directly heals the epithelial barrier disruption during mucosal inflammation. We believe the AGA-Elsevier Pilot Research Award will support us to obtain preliminary data for a new NIH application; more importantly, this AGA Award will permit a collaborative team of basic scientists and clinical investigators to start a brand-new project, and explore a novel potential therapeutic avenue for restoring epithelial barrier dysfunction in mucosal inflammation.

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AGA- Horizon Pharma Fellow Abstract Prize Recipients (3)

imgVeroushka Ballester, MD
University of Puerto Rico, San Juan, PR

Receiving the 2012 AGA Horizon Pharma Fellow Abstract Prize was a true honor. This award contributed greatly to my professional growth. As a first year fellow at the University of Puerto Rico Gastroenterology Program, the opportunity to present at the DDW was very fulfilling.  It allowed me to interact with experts in the field and gave me the exposure to up to date information and state of the art research projects.  The opportunity definitely provided me with a diversity of enriching experiences, which reinforced my interest in continuing a career in research. I have been working on research projects, specifically with Inflammatory Bowel Disease since my residency in Internal Medicine. My research project, Genetics of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Puerto Rico, was made in collaboration with Cedar Sinai Medical Genetics Institute, making it a unique experience.  I had the opportunity of working with an outstanding group of professionals that reinforced the importance of teamwork and commitment and who became my role models.  Furthermore, this award helped solidify my interest in pursuing a research and an academic career.

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imgLuke J. Engelking, MD, PhD
UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX

Many thanks to the AGA Research Foundation and Horizon Pharma for recognizing me with the 2012 AGA-Horizon Pharma Fellow Abstract Prize.  This award, in addition to supporting me to travel to the DDW so that I can communicate my research findings at the premier worldwide gastroenterological meeting, provides external validation of the quality of my postdoctoral research.  As I move forward to the next step in my career, which will be applying for my initial research grant and a junior faculty position, this recognition will be essential in establishing my potential for success as an independent investigator.  This award will be the feather in my cap to push me to the next level, so that I can continue my studies into the regulation of lipid metabolism in the enterocyte, and the importance of this regulation in disease states such as type II diabetes, obesity, dyslipidemia, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and others.

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imgMilli Gupta, MD, FRCPC
Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN

What an honor to be selected by the American Gastroenterology Association as a recipient of the 2012 AGA-Horizon Pharma Fellow Abstract Prize! Thank you! I appreciate the AGA’s commitment to recognizing and supporting research conducted by students, postgraduate trainees and physicians in training. This prize is an extremely exciting milestone in my growth as a young investigator. I am beyond happy to have been recognized by top researchers in the world of GI.

I am very appreciative to have my abstract entitled “Recurrence of Intestinal Metaplasia After Successful Eradication of Barrett’s Esophagus with Radio Frequency Ablation – Results from a BETRNet Consortium” recognized by the AGA-Horizon Pharma Fellow Abstract Prize selection committee. I presented the results of this study at DDW, and it was a national collaboration between researchers at The University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University and the Mayo Clinic. Attending DDW provided an excellent opportunity for me to communicate face-to-face with my collaborators to discuss further research opportunities.

I would also like to thank my mentors, Dr. Prasad G. Iyer and Dr. Kenneth Wang at Mayo Clinic, for giving me the opportunity, guiding me through this interesting project, and encouraging me to apply for this award.

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AGA- Horizon Pharma Student Abstract Prize Recipients (11)

imgFarhan Anwar
University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

I am honored to receive the AGA Horizon Pharma Abstract Prize. This will allow me to travel to Digestive Disease Week 2012 in San Diego. .  I am excited to witness and listen to the various lectures, particularly to those that are related to my research. This conference will expose me to a whole range of research and will allow me to expand my research further into new avenues of research. Along with new directions, I am curious to see collaborative results of other researchers.  Ultimately, the criticism I will receive at this conference on my poster will help me grow as a researcher in terms of presenting research, and understanding other’s research.

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imgAlexandra Cee
University Hospital Zurich, Zurich Switzerland

I am very honored that I have been chosen for the AGA-Horizon Pharma Student Abstract Prize. I am a PhD student at the University of Zurich, Switzerland and my work focuses on the transcription factor Nrf2, which is known to trigger the antioxidative response in cells, and its influence on mucosal inflammation.

With the support of the AGA-Horizon Pharma Student Abstract Prize, I could attend this years Digestive Disease Week conference in San Diego. There I profited from excellent state of the art lectures and presentations that helped me to gain a deeper insight into new advances in the field of gastroenterology. Additionally, I had the chance to present my own abstract with the title ‘Tissue specific overexpression of the transcription factor Nrf2 increases mucosal inflammation upon dextran sulphate sodium treatment.’ to an international audience. The fruitful discussion with other participants and the comments regarding my work have given me new input and ideas about the next steps in my project that will definitely improve my research. Again I would like to thank the AGA Research Foundation for selecting my abstract to be supported and thereby giving me the opportunity to advance in my carrier and my research.

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imgAaron Chavis
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

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imgRui Feng, MD
University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

It is a great honor to me to receive AGA Horizon Pharma Student Abstract Prize. I would especially like to thank my mentor, Yana Zavros, Ph.D. for supporting me. My research interest is to understand the role of Indian Hedgehog (Ihh) in the regulation of gastric epithelial cell proliferation in the adult stomach. Attending this conference gave me opportunity to share my research. And it is also a great opportunity for me to meet with other investigators, learn about the innovative work in the same research field and get novels ideas to expand my research.  Receiving the award is an encouragement to keep working hard towards my goals.

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imgTrilokesh Kidambi
Northwestern University, Chicago, IL

I am very grateful for the AGA-Horizon Pharma Student Abstract award, which helped defray the costs of attending Digestive Disease Week (DDW) in San Diego to present my research. At DDW, I was able to meet the leading researchers and clinicians in esophagology and eosinophilic esophagitis and discuss my research with them. It was an invaluable and humbling experience to be commended by them and my conversations will help focus my research in the future. Additionally, the AGA research recognition reception was an excellent opportunity to meet and network with other leaders in the field. As I make the transition from medical school at Northwestern University to internal medicine residency at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), I am thankful to the AGA and Horizon-Pharma for affording me support in my research endeavors, which has further promoted my career aspirations in academic gastroenterology.

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imgLin Lin
University of California, Los Angeles

I am so honored to be selected for the AGA-Horizon Pharma Student Abstract Prize, and would like to thank both the AGA Research Foundation and Horizon Pharma for sponsoring this award. This award confirmed the significance of my research, allowed me to present and discuss my work with a wide range of audience, and was really great stimulus for effective scientific communication. By supporting my attendance at Digestive Disease Week® (DDW), I harvested a lot of new ideas and very different perspectives from the numerous talks and presentations, which were quite an inspiration to me to push forward my research as well as better understand the field. Attending DDW also enabled me to meet a lot of great leaders in the field, and sharing their insight is a great asset to my future development.    

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imgKei Nakagawa
University of Pennsylvania, Wynnewood, PA

It is a true honor to have been chosen to receive an AGA Broad Foundation Student Research Fellowship Award. I would like to thank the AGA Foundation for selecting me as a recipient, as well as Dr. Anil K Rustgi, my mentor who has continually encouraged and guided my work at the University of Pennsylvania. Through the research experience enabled through this fellowship, I hope to not only contribute scientifically but also gain a greater appreciation for the field of medicine, which I hope to pursue in the future. While I have always had an interest in the field of biomedical research, I feel even more connected now. Thank you to the Broad Foundation for providing me with this tremendous opportunity.

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imgMichael Schumacher
University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

I am thankful to the AGA for awarding this prize for my DDW abstract. This award assisted me in attending DDW 2012 where I was able to share my research and learn about the innovative work of others in my field from around the world. My current work focuses on the gastric immune response to Helicobacter pylori infection and attending this conference gave me the opportunity to see novel ideas in the same research area. Going forward these new ideas will help me to expand my own project and develop new experiments to target my hypothesis. Furthermore meeting with other investigators in the field provided valuable contacts that will be beneficial in future scientific endeavors.

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imgDerrick Stobaugh
Northshore University Health System, Evanston, IL

It truly was a privilege and an honor to be recognized and selected for the AGA Horizon Pharma Student Abstract Prize. At this level, it was an honor to have had my abstract accepted by the AGA for a poster presentation at Digestive Disease Week 2012. To then have the AGA accept my abstract for an award, only shows more and more evidence of the AGA’s dedication to encouraging and promoting new researchers in the field of gastroenterology. The award included a travel grant, which supported my attendance to DDW, which was an unforgettable experience – I was surrounded by researchers from all around the world, exposing me to the latest of discoveries and allowing me to see all of the potential that my future could hold within the research setting. I look forward to continuing my research effort in the field of gastroenterology and I hope to continue contributing to DDW for years to come, as it was the brightest moment in my research career.

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imgAmanda Troy
Pennsylvania State University, Hershey, PA

Receiving the 2012 AGA-Horizon Student Abstract Prize was an unexpected surprise. First, I would like to thank both organizations for sponsoring this award so that young researchers, like myself can have the opportunity to present their research. As a non-traditional student, returning to graduate school after a few years in the working world, being honored by this award reaffirms my decision to return to school for another degree. I have had the privilege of working in Dr. Browning's lab at the Penn St. College of Medicine for the past year. This being my first conference, your financial support in attending opened my eyes to a whole new world and allowed me to develop relationships with investigators and students who will be great sources of information and collaboration in the future. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to see the breadth of research that is ongoing in my field. Being blessed by this award so early in my career serves as a the fuel to continue working to advance my project and contribute to the vast field of research and knowledge.

I am very grateful for this award and the generous support of my research and career choice.

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imgNiels Vande Casteele
Catholic University Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

Thanks to the AGA – Horizon Pharma Student Abstract Prize, I was able to defray a part of my travel costs to come to DDW 2012 held in San Diego. This will give me the opportunity to attend other scientific meetings and will allow me to present my research work and to interact with fellow PhD students and PI all over the world. Hopefully these opportunities will allow me to pursue my goal to elaborate a flourishing international scientific career.

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Moti L. & Kamla Rustgi International Travel Award Recipients (2)

imgYeong Yeh Lee, MD, MRCP
University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom

It has been the greatest honor for me to be selected as one of the recipient for this prestigious award. I sincerely thank the AGA Research Foundation for their generosity.

My research involves developing a novel Hall-Effect technique allowing a precise and continuous measurement of migration of the gastroesophageal junction (GEJ) without any radiation exposure. The novel technique is used alongside high resolution manometry for a detailed physiological study of the movement of the GEJ during transient lower esophageal sphincter relaxations (TLESRs).   It has been previously reported that there is marked proximal movement of the GEJ during TLESRs of up to 9 cm and is due to shortening of the longitudinal muscle of the esophagus. In our study, we confirmed the marked but transient herniation of the GEJ above the diaphragmatic hiatus during TLESRs. Most interestingly we demonstrated that there is an initial rapid descent of the GEJ with behavior similar to a mechanical spring. This suggests a role for the phrenoesophageal ligament during this phase of movement.

To be able to present my study findings to a global audience during DDW means a lot to inspiring young GI researchers like me. This is a lifetime opportunity. Getting an award from the AGA is another proud moment in my life.

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imgMira Wouters, PhD
Catholic University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

I am truly grateful and honoured for receiving the 2012 AGA Rustgi Research Award and I would like to thank Dr. Anil K. Rustgi and the American Gastroenterological Association Research Foundation for their support.

My work at the University of Leuven, Belgium, focusses on the Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and aims to unravel the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying IBS and subsequently to identify new therapeutic targets to treat IBS. Increased perception of visceral stimuli (visceral hypersensitivity) is generally accepted to contribute to abdominal discomfort and pain in IBS. At the KULeuven, we have one of the largest, well defined, study cohorts available of subjects who were exposed to a gastrointestinal infection or a waterborne bacterial outbreak which allows us to study the role of genetic background, mucosal immune activation and neuronal plasticity in post-infectious IBS. My work and my postdoctoral position were supported by the Flemish Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (FWO). I greatly appreciate the support that the 2012 AGA Rustgi Research Award provided for me to travel, present, learn and interact at DDW. Having my research recognized in this way gives me the confidence to pursue my academic aspirations.

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AGA-Broad Student Research Fellowship Award Recipients - High School Category (11)

imgYiyun Cao
Illinois Math and Science Academy

I am honored to be a recipient of the 2012 AGA-Eli & Edythe Broad Student Research Fellowship Award. In the past year, I have worked in the lab of Dr. Bana Jabri at the University of Chicago studying the regulation of RGS1 in celiac disease, and have gained valuable experience in all the different aspects of science, from experimentation, reading literature, and writing about and presenting my work. The AGA-Broad Fellowship will allow me to greatly expand on this foundation this summer, in an environment which I know to be highly conducive to my growth as a scientist. After already having gained the majority of the technical skills required for my project and writing this application, I am also poised to take a more independent role in the laboratory, which will be further facilitated by the fellowship.  Overall, the award will benefit my goals of getting a graduate degree and working in biomedical research by providing me with the opportunity to gain more experience and independence in the laboratory.


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imgAlexander R. Cohen
Newton South High School

My ultimate goal is to pursue a scientific career that allows me to apply this knowledge to solving problems affecting human health.  As my enthusiasm for science has grown, I have tried very hard to take advantage of each opportunity to learn more about the physical world in which I live.  I participate actively in classroom discussions, and I have performed well in my courses.  My parents and teachers have not failed to notice my dedication to science and my deep curiosity.  Based on their encouragement, I began to explore opportunities to participate in independent research.  I had the good fortune to be introduced to Dr. Wolfram Goessling in Genetics Division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.  During my visit to his laboratory, I had the opportunity to observe zebrafish at various stages of development.  I was fascinated with the potential of this model to contribute to our understanding of liver development and regeneration and was particularly captivated by its relevance to human disease.  Dr. Goessling discussed potential projects with me and provided me with reading materials and resources to learn more about the zebrafish model.  These allowed me to identify an area of particular interest and to design an experimental plan for the summer’s research.  With the support of an AGA-Broad Foundation Student Research Fellowship Award, I look forward to an exciting research opportunity in digestive and liver diseases.  I believe that this laboratory experience will further inspire me to pursue a career in biomedical science that is dedicated to improving human health and to curing disease.

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imgPeter G. Delaney
University School

I am extremely grateful to the AGA for awarding me the 2012 Eli & Edythe Broad Student Research Fellowship Award. While working this past summer in the lab of Dr. Theresa Pizarro in the Department of Pathology at Case Western Reserve University, I developed a love for the deductive nature and experimentation of scientific research. I gained a lot of lab experience with techniques such as cell culture and flow cytometry and am now ready to pursue more in depth research. I am excited to expand upon my research and knowledge of IBD with the funding this grant will provide.

In the next phase of my research, I plan to further investigate the connection between IL-33, IL-17, and IBD. IL-33 and its receptor, ST2, are new members of the IL-1 family. IL-33 is increased in several different inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, including IBD. Although an association between IL-33 and IBD has been established, the precise relevance of this association is not yet discovered. My hypothesis is that IL-33 serves as an early, primary mediator of IL-17-dependent/Th17 immune responses leading to chronic intestinal inflammation. This hypothesis will be tested by trying to identify the primary source of IL-17 induced by IL-33 in IBD patients and in a model of intestinal inflammation, and then to evaluate the effect of neutralizing IL-33 on Th17 and IL-17-producing immune cell populations in experimental ileitis. The overall goal is to evaluate whether IL-33 may be an important mediator in IL-17 immune responses, and if it may offer new ways to treat IBD patients.

I am very excited to further my understanding of this area of science. I very much enjoy these studies and realize I am lucky to have this opportunity.

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imgAndrea R. Hughes
Centennial High School

It is hard to begin to express how truly honored I am to be one of the recipients of the AGA-Broad Student Research Fellowship Award. I know that this summer will prove informative and exciting as I embark on research concerning Shigella and Tight Junctions with Dr. Jill Harper at the Mucosal Biology Research Center (MBRC) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Shigella is a pathogenic enteric bacteria that is able to slip past the epithelial barrier that regulates what can or cannot enter the cell. Once inside the host cell, Shigella disrupts the functionality of the cell, inducing severe inflammation and overt clinical symptoms. It also weakens the tight junction that works as a reinforcement to the epithelial barrier, making the host cell more susceptible to pathogenic invasions and therefore the body more susceptible to sickness. We will be studying this change in the tight junction effectiveness after interaction with Shigella throughout this summer. I greatly appreciate how much Dr. Harper and Dr. Alessio Fasano, director of the MBRC, have already taught me about this exciting field. The opportunity that the AGA and the Broad Foundation has given me will be the experience of a lifetime and the start of what I hope to be a great career in medical and biological research.

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imgAileen M. Martin
Carrollton School of the Sacred

Thank you to the AGA for presenting me with this award. It will most definitely aid me in my future endeavors; it opens many windows of opportunity. It gives me the chance to work alongside the leading gastroenterological scientists of today and do groundbreaking research on colorectal cancer. Since I would like to be a doctor, having this experience will really help prepare me for what is in store in medical school and beyond. It will open my eyes to the fascinating world of science happening all around me, and will encourage me to pursue more science and research related activities. Thank you again to the AGA Research Foundation for your generosity in presenting me with this award.

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imgKei Nakagawa
Lower Merion High School

It is a true honor to have been chosen to receive an AGA Broad Foundation Student Research Fellowship Award. I would like to thank the AGA Foundation for selecting me as a recipient, as well as Dr. Anil K Rustgi, my mentor who has continually encouraged and guided my work at the University of Pennsylvania. Through the research experience enabled through this fellowship, I hope to not only contribute scientifically but also gain a greater appreciation for the field of medicine, which I hope to pursue in the future. While I have always had an interest in the field of biomedical research, I feel even more connected now. Thank you to the Broad Foundation for providing me with this tremendous opportunity.

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imgJordan M. Poles
Horace Greeley High School

I am extremely thankful for the support provided to me by the AGA and the Broad foundation. I am highly honored to be chosen for the Student Research Fellowship Award. I am also deeply thankful to my mentor, Dr. Saurabh Mehandru, for permitting me to work in his lab and for all of the guidance that he has provided me as I complete my research project. I am well aware of the hard work and dedication that are required for a career in research, and I am eager to face the challenge. While I have had previous exposure to research and lab work, this grant will provide me with the invaluable experience of designing, orchestrating, and completing my own experimentation as well as providing me an opportunity to write and present my own work. I anticipate that this experience will provide me the tools to open additional doors as I continue to strive toward a career in biomedical research. Ultimately, I hope that my work, and that of others will serve to expand our current scientific knowledge, and in doing so, improve the lives of others around the world. Each step we take in research brings us closer to solving humanity's great problems. While vaccination is often something we take for granted, it took hundreds of years and the composite work of thousands of scientists to devise an effective means to prevent deadly diseases such as polio or smallpox. I hope to make contributions to science that will one day allow us to prevent the spread of devastating viruses such as HIV.

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imgPooja N. Prasad
Bellaire High School

It is a great honor to receive the AGA-Eli & Edythe Broad Student Research Fellowship Award. Science has always been my passion, which is why I intend to pursue a career in the medical field in the future. Specifically, I am interested in biomedical research. I have participated in science fairs since elementary school, but in my high school career, I have carried out a project involving high fructose and diabetes, and more recently, I have researched the roles of microRNAs in ovarian cancer, and the potential of using microRNAs as therapeutic agents for future cancer treatment.  During this fellowship, I plan to investigate role of miRNA-mediated gene regulation in the early pathogenesis of colorectal cancer using bioinformatics and molecular methods. I know that the AGA Student Fellowship award is a very prestigious award, and I am very thankful for the AGA Broad Fellowship because it will give me a great opportunity to pursue my interests in biomedical research. I believe this award would be a great experience for me to further my bioinformatics and molecular biology techniques, familiarize my self and expose myself to a lab environment, and have the opportunity to use state of the art equipment that would aid in my research project. I would also be given the opportunity to interact with people in the scientific community, and I believe that this would incredibly broaden my scientific knowledge.

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imgSidharth K. Sengupta
Westview High School

I would like to thank the AGA Research Foundation for selecting me as a recipient of the AGA-Eli & Edythe Broad Student Research Fellowship Award. Last summer, I had the opportunity to work with Drs. Melissa Wong and Eric Anderson at the Oregon Health and Science University, and it was here I developed an interest in gastroenterological and oncological sciences. Using this past experience as a foundation, I am thrilled to be returning to the lab this summer to investigate cellular abnormalities with the gene PARK2 in metastatic colorectal cancer and its role in tumorigenesis, which will hopefully someday become genetic markers clinicians can use to improve prognoses and therapy selection, ultimately optimizing care. This award offers me practical and essential research experience, not only restricted to laboratory protocols but also aspects like grant proposal composition. In addition, this is an important foundation for my future in research and medicine, which I hope to pursue in later education and as a career. Ultimately, I am honored and humbled to be receiving this award and look forward to a summer of research. 

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imgKatherine K. Wu
Episcopal Academy

I am extremely honored to be a recipient of the AGA-Eli & Edythe Broad Student Research Fellowship Award. I would like to thank the review panel for considering my application as well as Dr. Anil Rustgi who has provided me with the unique opportunity to work in his research lab at the University of Pennsylvania. I have always been drawn towards my lab science courses in high school, biology and chemistry in particular, and this award will now allow me to pursue that interest even further. I truly look forward to investigating the genetics of gastrointestinal cancers as I further my understanding of the scientific method and the implications of this research. This award will help me to build upon my passion for science and lay the foundation for my goal to become a medical professional. While in a high school lab the primary goal is to complete an experiment to find a previously known answer, with this award and the generous support of Dr. Rustgi and the AGA, I will be able to work in a laboratory making scientific discoveries related to the pathogenesis of GI malignancies. Thank you again to my mentor Dr. Rustgi and the review panel of the AGA-Eli & Edythe Broad Student Research Fellowship Award for giving me this amazing opportunity.

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imgWilliam Yao
Walton High School

It is a great honor to receive the AGA-Broad Student Research Fellowship so I can pursue my research projects in molecular physiology of gastric acid secretion in the stomach during the upcoming summer. I am very excited to be able to use the state-of-the-art technology of photo-activation localization microscopy to delineate the role of ezrin signaling complex dynamics during stomach acid secretion.  Beyond my short-term goal of completing proposed research project, I would like to remain investigating and visualizing the molecule events associated with gastric acid secretion in the parietal cells so I can then develop readouts for assessing the pathogenesis of gastric cancer. My long-term objective is to pursue my undergraduate and graduate studies in physiological sciences. The AGA-Broad Foundation Student Research Fellowship will enable me to get hands-on experience and solve the experimental puzzles so I can be better prepared for challenging questions, such as disease disparity of Helicobacter pylori infection, in my professional career. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the AGA Research Foundation for granting me with such a wonderful opportunity to learn and practice.

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AGA Student Research Fellowship Award Recipients - Undergraduate Category (21)

imgLaurent Bilodeau
Laval University

It is an honour for me to have been chosen as a recipient of the 2012 AGA Student Researc Fellowship Award. This award will allow me to get a better insight of the field of research in gastroenterology as I will work as a summer student in the laboratory of Dr. Christopher Rose in Montreal. Our lab wants to seize the complexity between oxidative stress in liver disease and Hepatic Encephalopathy (HE). Not only do I find this project highly fascinating and intellectually stimulating, the subject reaches a branch of medicine for which I have developed a passion and am interested to make a medical career out of. In this future career, a considerable part of my time will be dedicated to the field of research and thus, this award will allow me to focus my energy into this project in order to learn about this field, helping me making an informed decision concerning my career orientation.

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imgDaniel P. Bitner
Temple University

Clinical medicine requires a keen interest in problem solving because the physician must connect signs and symptoms to diagnose and treat patients’ illnesses or injuries. Biomedical research is entirely analogous: the gaps in our knowledge are resolved by numerous studies, which are then applied to propose new methods of treatment. As this analogy demonstrates, involvement in research will prepare me for my future as a physician by improving my analytical ability. Prior participation in research has fueled my passion for science, and I am certain a large part of my career as a physician will be spent in the laboratory. I intend to use my time in the American Gastroenterological Association Student Research Fellowship to develop my understanding of and love for the biomedical sciences.

The project in which I will be employed fascinates me. The mechanisms by which the enteric nervous system controls the gastrointestinal tract are complex and beautiful, but fallible as deficiencies in the system can cause various disorders. It seems probable that clinical use of stem cell therapy in treating these disorders will be implemented when I am a physician. My participation in the research that may eventually make this possible is truly remarkable. I have been very fortunate to find a place in Dr. Hu’s laboratory, and I am certain that my involvement with this team will make me more knowledgeable about and interested in biomedical research, especially in neurogastroenterology.
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imgSeverine Z. Cao
University of Chicago

I am currently a third year at the University of Chicago, pursuing a major in Biology with a specialization in Immunology, and a minor in Environmental Sciences. More specifically, my interest in Environmental Sciences focuses on agriculture, and on investigating how modern-day food production and our personal food choices influence our health. I recently joined the Nagler Lab because Dr. Nagler’s research on the microbiome’s regulation of food allergies offered a rare opportunity to combine my interests in immunology and agriculture. Indeed, my proposed research project provides a unique fusion of these two subjects, as I will be able to study how the Western diet that has become so pervasive due to the state of today’s food policies can impact our immunological reactions to food. This research will form the basis of an honors thesis and I am very excited to make progress on.

I am also a pre-medical student, and hope to attend Medical School after graduation to pursue a career in the health professions. My choice for a career goal is motivated by a desire to use my interest in the sciences to provide immediate guidance to those who need it, and I feel that a physician is in the best position to do so. My ultimate career goal is to practice medicine as a gastroenterologist, who I feel can best unite food and immunology in providing care for others.

The AGA Student Research Fellowship would also help me with the achievement of my career goal by allowing me to develop my two interests and by offering me the opportunity to improve my competency as a scientist. I will finally be able to conduct research in a field that combines immunology with agriculture and to learn about the protocols and the relevant literature that such research involves. By providing me with adequate funding, the Research Fellowship will allow me to engage with a subject I am passionate about, and to improve my skills as I do so!
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imgLucy Gao
Johns Hopkins University

I am very excited and honored to have been selected to be a recipient of the 2012 AGA Student Research Fellowship Award. I have been working part-time in the lab of Dr. Mark Donowitz for the 2011-2012 (sophomore) school year, and this award supports me in taking on my own full-time laboratory research project over the summer. This award has already stimulated my personal growth through its application process, giving me the opportunity to test my ability to organize and develop a research proposal. I am thankful for the generous support and guidance from the AGA and my fellow lab members, especially my mentors—Dr. Donowitz and Dr. Rafiq Sarker. I look forward to my project this summer as the start of my independent research endeavors and will always remember this summer as the first milestone of my research career.

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imgZachary D. Demertzis
University of Illinois at Chicago

Over the past year I have been heavily involved in research projects. I first started as a volunteer in Dr. Hecht’s lab last summer, learning that patience is the most critical characteristic one needs in order to be successful in the lab. I also learned that failing is inevitable and that I must build and improve off of those mistakes. My second project was through the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) at the University of Michigan that focused on the psychology of medical decision-making. This showed me a different style of research compared to Dr. Hecht’s lab, because I was handing out surveys and interacting with patients. Nevertheless, what I took away from both of these projects was that research is an ongoing process of learning. Everyday new concepts or ideas are generated all because rigorous experimentation was conducted. Research is crucial in our community because it provides us with explanations to events that are occurring around us everyday. Therefore, I am truly grateful for being chosen as a recipient of the AGA Student Research Fellowship Award because it provides me with the chance to continue to experiment and hopefully have an impact in the gastroenterology community. This award will provide me with additional experience in the research environment, which is necessary for anyone who is interested in entering a medical profession. My dream is to become physician, however, I will continue to do research, because unanswered questions will always exists as life evolves. Thus, it is essential that knowledge evolves along with it.
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imgEmily L. Dubois
Regis University

I am thrilled and honored to have received the AGA Student Research Fellowship Award! With the help of the AGA and my mentor, Dr. Alexandra Gutierrez, I am very excited to examine and better understand the illness and patients I hope to someday treat. This award is providing me with a great opportunity to work in the hospital, with patients, and with a leading IBD researcher. The things I will learn, the insights I will gain, and our research findings are all bits of wisdom I could never gain from a text book. This experience will propel my learning experience far beyond what undergraduate and the beginnings of medical school studies will provide, and for that I am very grateful. It is my hope that through spending these ten funded weeks studying patient symptom reporting, I will better understand the illness experience of IBD patients and how we as physicians can better communicate with, understand, provide for, and treat IBD patients. As an IBD patient myself and a future pediatric gastroenterologist who has worked with many IBD doctors, I understand the difficulties both physicians and patients have in managing the illness. Thanks to the AGA Research Foundation, I am able to pursue my passion and learn from some of the top doctors in IBD research!

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imgMichael E. Esantsi
Vanderbilt University

Upon receiving this prestigious award, my desire and confidence to pursue the intestinal research path has increased. I will always remember this AGA award because this is my first research fellowship award that is funding my first research project in a professional laboratory. Therefore, I am very grateful to the AGA Research Foundation for this award that is very sentimental to me as an exciting starting point for my M.D./Ph.D. career path. In addition, this award can now help me to affirm whether I would like to pursue a career in the field of intestinal disease research and as well providing me with a good insight into the research profession as a whole. In respect to my future research endeavors, I plan to reapply to the AGA Student Research Fellowship Award next year to continue to fund my research in the area of matrixmetalloproteinases and their possible role in intestinal cancer. Specifically, I would like to continue my current project of finding the role that matrixmetalloproteinase 10 has in promoting or retarding the progression of cancer in the intestines. I hope that my current research project will lead to conclusive results that have a variety of real world applications, if this is the case then this award will be the stepping-stone to these achievements. As a recipient of this award, I will use the AGA grant’s prestige to enhance my resume for applying to graduate school for my Ph.D. Therefore this award is a very pivotal point in my career path towards my M.D./ Ph.D. goal as well as my desire to research in the intestinal disease field.

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imgTaylor E. Geisman
University of Dayton

I am incredibly honored to receive the AGA Student Research Fellowship Award and am especially grateful to Dr. Deborah Rubin and Dr. Amy Garcia, my mentors, who made this possible.  Last summer, they encouraged me to broaden my research interests from the clinic to the laboratory in the form of the Tis7 project, which I will be continuing this summer. 

In particular, this research project studies the role that Tis7, a transcriptional coregulator, plays in small bowel adaptation, particularly following >50% resection. Previously, our lab has shown that expression of the transcriptional co-regulator Tis7 is markedly increased in enterocytes following 50% small bowel resection in mice.  In particular, mice transgenic for Tis7 in enterocytes showed markedly higher fat absorption, whereas mice knockout for Tis7 in enterocytes showed markedly lower fat absorption and overall higher mortality rates.  This summer, I will be attempting to elucidate the mechanisms behind these phenotypes by examining specific genes of Tis7 transgenic, wildtype, and knockout mice that are known to be involved in fat absorption.  If time permits, I will also be examining whether or not restoring Tis7 expression in knockout mice via cross with Tis7 transgenic mice reverses the increased mortality found in knockouts post resection.

My hope is that identifying these mechanisms may lead to novel therapeutic approaches to optimize nutrient absorption and intestinal adaptation in short gut patients. This grant will greatly assist me in making progress towards achieving that goal.  In addition, this prestigious award will open many doors for me for future gastroenterological research endeavors, something about which I have become very passionate.  Finally, this award will help me achieve my goal of attending medical school to one day become a gastroenterologist.  Thank you AGA Research Foundation for this tremendous honor

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imgAna L. Guzman
University of Ottawa

I believe that my participation in the proposed research project titled ‘Assessment of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in diet, erythrocyte and hepatic phospholipids of patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease versus healthy controls’ will be very valuable. I will be able to draw upon my solid biological and health science background, as well as my research experience. My skills and qualifications will enable me to contribute to the proposed research project to the best of my abilities. In addition, this experience will give me the opportunity to explore an area of research, which already sparks my interest, at much greater depth thus building a stronger foundation to embark in a career in medicine. This award will grant me the opportunity to see firsthand how all the knowledge that I have gained during my undergraduate years applies to real life. My desire to pursue a career in medicine in part stems from my aspiration in making a positive difference in people’s lives. My participation in the proposed project will allow me to make a difference in people’s health through the study of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. I strongly believe that my skills will enable me to fulfill the duties and responsibilities associated with the research project and I shall quickly prove to be an integral part of preceptor’s, Dr. Allard. The time management, analytical and adaptability skills that I have gained through the volunteer and work positions that I have held have contributed to my academic, social and mental development, and are important towards achieving my long term goals. I will further develop these skills and apply them to a setting that I have not yet explored, but am eager to explore. I aspire to have a career in medicine although it is known to be a tough and demanding path. I believe that the gratification obtained from a career in medicine and research is worth the hard work and dedication that it requires. In closing, I would like to thank you for granting me one of the recipients of the AGA Student Research Fellowship Awards.

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imgCameron A. Hecht
University of Vermont

The AGA Student Fellowship Award will give me the opportunity to take part in the fascinating research field of neurogastroenterology, obtain crucial laboratory experience, and continue on my path to being a researcher. Specifically, I hope to apply the techniques that I learn in the lab as well as the experience I will gain testing scientific hypotheses to help me engage in neuropsychological research later in my scientific career.  I look forward to working in Dr. Mawe’s lab this summer and am prepared to dedicate myself to my research in order to gain as much as I can from this experience. Receiving this student fellowship award will provide me with critical support in the pursuit of research and my career goals.

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imgJesse D. Kirkpatrick
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

I am thrilled and extremely honored to be a recipient of the AGA Student Research Fellowship Award. In late 2010, I became interested in elucidating the mechanism behind Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and helping contribute to a cure. I have since aspired to work under Dr. Maria Abreu, an authority in IBD research and a personal role model. The American Gastroenterological Association Research Foundation is helping me achieve this goal.

I am very excited to get started. I will spend my summer studying the local inflammatory impact of a high fat diet on two different mouse models of colitis. Hopefully, my research will help clarify the clinically observed correlation between diet and severity of colitis. Dr. Abreu believes that this may help answer some fundamental questions about IBD, and could even lead to therapies.

The experience will help me solidify my research goals and give me a blueprint for how to accomplish them. I am committed to helping find a cure for IBD, and Dr. Abreu’s expertise and experience will be critical to me in my development as a researcher.

This fellowship gives me the opportunity to do what I love while contributing to IBD research. I am excited to see what the next few months have in store for me, and I can’t wait to take this next step toward achieving my goals.

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imgRuby C. Maa
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Unalbel to retrieve.

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imgIan E. Maina
University of North Texas

The AGA Student Fellowship Award is much more than an opportunity to do research with a medical professional. It is a gateway to experience various aspects of the world of medicine. This generous award has given me the chance to be mentored by physicians and scientists in gastroenterology. I have learned that being part of a research project involves many people with varying expertise, collaborating toward a mutual goal. I have been able to experience various other aspects of research such as the Institutional Review Board process and gaining approval for studies, submitting sample requests, and so many other interesting things. I have been able to immerse myself in the process; putting on a white coat and gloves and centrifuging serum samples to analyze levels of enzymes to see which would be more rapidly responsive in assessing a patient’s recovery from severe liver injury. Whether I take the path of a researcher or clinician, the objective and the outcome are the same as both are working for advancing the welfare of the patient. This award has allowed me to gain research experience I otherwise would not have had, as I continue to work towards my goal of applying to medical school. It also allows me the honor of submitting my research effort to the world's largest conference for GI professionals. That alone is a tremendous opportunity few undergraduate students receive. I'm excited to continue my research on alpha-glutathione-s-transferase and its potential to be a more responsive marker for liver damage. Thank you to the American Gastroenterological Association Research Foundation for this remarkable opportunity.

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imgPaul K. Martin
University of Michigan Heart

The AGA Student Research Fellowship Award will enable me to participate in exciting colorectal cancer research as I continue my undergraduate education at the University of Michigan.  The technical skills and research experience that I will attain from this position will set the foundation for a career in medicine and medical research.  As a pre-medical undergraduate student, the classroom focus is primarily on the basic sciences and the “known”; it normally takes years before those facts can be applied to discovery research in the field of medicine.  By engaging in this project now, I will be immersed into the field of medical research relatively early in my education and I will gain experience in the approach and excitement of doing original research.  The experience will prepare me for future medical endeavors and stimulate even more personal enthusiasm toward this field. 

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imgAkanksha Mishra
University of Cincinnati

Thanks to the review panel of AGA Student Research Fellowship Award for considering my application to continue prestigious AGA summer student fellowship award in 2012. This fellowship will provide me the opportunity to complete my project that I started in the summer of 2011 at the Allergy and Immunology Division of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, Ohio. I hope to successfully translate my last year basic research findings on the role of gama/delta T cells in experimental eosinophilic esophagitis to human esophageal eosinophilic disorder. I strongly believe that my proposed research work will provide a new understanding and future direction on establishing a diagnostic and therapeutic intervention on eosinophilic esophagitis. In summary, the award will shape my career goal and to gain the knowledge how to translate basic science research into humans that are suffering from eosinophil related gastrointestinal diseases. I strongly believe this opportunity provided by AGA will help me to get a research publication that will help me to get the admission for obtaining MD, PhD degree.

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imgJessica L. Mueller
Amherst College

I am very grateful and proud to be a 2012 recipient of the AGA Student Fellowship Award.  With this award, I plan to expand upon the research I conducted last summer at Massachusetts General Hospital under the mentorship of Dr. Kathleen Corey by investigating the prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis among type II diabetic patients and identifying potential risk factors for these liver diseases.  This project could ultimately change the standard of care and screening methods for fatty liver among diabetic patients and I am extremely excited to take on a project with such potential real-life effects. This clinical research will give me patient contact experience, an understanding of disease pathology, and the opportunity to develop statistical analysis skills and experience in writing clinical research protocols and working with the Intstitutional Review Board. I believe this experience will give me the necessary foundation and an expanding passion for the development of a career in medicine and research. 

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imgMichele K. Saums
University of Pennsylvania

I feel especially honored to be awarded the AGA Student Research Fellowship Award.
It was because of this award last year that I was able to successfully complete and further expand my project: I determined whether a certain matrix protein plays a role in liver fibrosis, and now I will investigate the specific effects of this protein and one that belongs in the same family. I developed a new mechanically relevant cell culture system to study the interactions between cells and mixtures of matrix proteins, and I plan to optimize this system.  It is these expansions that the 2012 award will support.

Studying the beginning stages of liver fibrosis using this new system, which will be optimized using engineering methods, allows me to explore biology, coupled with ever-advancing engineering, outside of the realm of my neuroscience major. In one year, I will be graduating from Penn with a both broad and deep understanding of the physiological research sciences. I am pursuing a research position in Europe upon graduation, and then I will apply to medical schools with excellent research programs, so I hope my experience at Penn supported by the AGA will lead me to my ultimate goal of becoming a successful and highly contributory physician-scientist.

This fellowship award has and will continue to help me achieve my academic and professional goals. Having the privilege to call myself a recipient of the AGA Student Research Fellowship Award will only improve and broaden my opportunities to obtain future research positions, such as the position I seek in Europe, and more funding for future projects. As my experience, knowledge, and resume grow, so will my ability to contribute to increasingly advanced and important research. Not only does winning this grant assist me, but it could change the field of liver research by providing new techniques for studying fibrosis in vitro. In this way, it could also advance the studies of generating artificial livers.

I would like to acknowledge Dr. Daeyeon Lee and Dr. Rebecca Wells for their extreme support, patience, and guidance. I would also like to thank the AGA Research Foundation.

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imgStephanie G. Schmitt
Wellesley College

I feel incredibly honored to be receiving the AGA-Eli & Edythe Broad Student Research Fellowship Award this year, and would like to thank the AGA Research Foundation for selecting me as one of its recipients. I am especially indebted to Dr. Jerrold R. Turner, my mentor who has continually encouraged and guided my work at the University of Chicago. I am truly excited to return to the University of Chicago and spend ten weeks with Dr. Turner and his lab. They were extremely welcoming and patient last summer and have already taught me so much about what it means to be a scientist. Thanks to their efforts last summer, I am now able to manipulate plasmids, transform bacteria, and synthesize recombinant proteins. Based on these experiences, I am ready to hit the ground running, and make an impact in IBD research.
Epithelial barrier dysfunction contributes to the progression of debilitating intestinal and systemic diseases. And yet, there are fundamental gaps of knowledge in how the molecular interactions and mechanisms that contribute to barrier regulation relate to various pathologic responses. With the aid of this grant, I will focus on Spectrin, a cytosketelal protein that associated with the plasma membrane of cells. This project will test whether the ZU-5 domain of the ZO-1 protein, the first tight junction protein identified, interacts with either the α or β subunits of spectrin. Because ZO-1 serves as a scaffold that regulates tight junction complex stability and barrier function, the results may significantly advance our understanding of intestinal barrier function and help to define mechanisms of and interventions to reverse barrier loss in IBD.

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imgMohamed H. Shitia
University of Connecticut

I am sincerely honored to be a recipient of the 2012 AGA Student Research Fellowship Award. I am ever grateful to the AGA Research Foundation for allowing me to continue my research on the role of AMP-dependent protein kinase (AMPK) in regulating early responses of acute pancreatitis with Yale University this summer. I would also like to thank Dr. Edwin Thrower and Dr. Fred Gorelick for their valuable mentorship.
I believe with the utmost confidence that Dr. Gorelick’s research lab will grant me the best opportunity to develop as a student and as a scientist. By extending my research in the lab this summer, I expect to further my knowledge of acute pancreatitis and its possible causes. More importantly, I hope that my research will be notable enough to impact others in the field and, ultimately, aid others in generating innovative, more effective treatments.

At the end of my undergraduate years at the University of Connecticut, I plan to attain a medical degree with an ultimate goal of becoming a physician, or quite possibly a physician scientist. This research opportunity would help me decide whether or not I should consider a career in research—not just in digestive diseases—but in any discipline.

I have truly been blessed with the opportunity to work with Dr. Gorelick, Dr. Thrower, and the rest of their research team. Once again, I would like to thank the AGA for their generous award, and I hope that my work will generate valuable insight on a potential therapeutic agent for acute pancreatitis.

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imgRoshni P. Singh
Boston University

Learning about gastroenterology and digestive disease has always been a passion of mine. Shadowing physicians and volunteering in pre- and post-procedure units in hospitals gave me an idea of the patient interaction aspect of gastroenterology, but I yearned to learn more about digestive diseases themselves. Conducting research in chemoprevention relating to esophageal cancer at the Columbia University Irvine Cancer Center under the AGA Student Research Fellowship Award this summer will be my first formal lab experience. I will be exploring drug treatments to promote COX-2 inhibition and p53 rescue in order to prevent progression from the premalignant lesion, Barrett’s Esophagus, to esophageal adenocarcinoma. Engaging in this research will not only help me learn pertinent lab techniques, and intricacies of diseases like Barrett’s Esophagus, but also how important creativity is when trying to understand and solve medical problems. I definitely wish to pursue a career in gastroenterology, and I am confident that conducting this research will further my interest in this field.

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imgBrittany K. Wagner
Queen’s University

I am thrilled to have been chosen as a recipient of the AGA Student Research Fellowship Award this year, and would like to thank the AGA Research Foundation for providing me with this exciting opportunity. I plan to put this award towards my work as a summer research assistant in the laboratory of Dr. Michael Beyak. Our lab aims to examine the impact of obesity on the signalling properties of vagal afferents in the intestines in response to various physiological stimuli, including nutrients and gastrointestinal hormones and signalling molecules. I hope to further expand on this research during the upcoming final year of my undergraduate degree. Elucidating the pathophysiology of obesity is, in my opinion, one of the most exciting and important areas of medical research taking place today, as obesity presents one of the most prevalent epidemics of the modern world. It is my hope that research taking place in the lab that I am currently a part of, as well as similar laboratories throughout the world, will lay the foundation for developing effective treatments for this complex disease state. I extend my thanks once again to the AGA Foundation for supporting my first foray into the world of medical research, to which I hope to continue contributing to in my future career.