2011 Grant Recipients

 

Awards:

 

Research Scholar Award

imgAshwin Ananthakrishnan, MD, MPH
Massachusetts General Hospital

"It is truly an honor to be a recipient of the AGA Research Scholar Award. I'd like to express my gratitude to the American Gastroenterological Association and Foundation for Digestive Health and Nutrition for conferring this award on me as I start my academic career.

My research proposal aims to improve our understanding of environmental risk factors for the development of Crohn's Disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC), in particular - diet. Over 90 genetic risk loci have been described for CD or UC, but these incompletely account for disease risk, suggesting a strong role for environmental factors, including diet. To generate high-quality epidemiologic evidence for specific dietary triggers of disease onset, I propose to examine the relationship between prospectively collected information on diet and risk of incident CD and UC among women enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study (NHS) I and II. These cohorts collectively includes 238,386 women who have provided detailed, biennial health surveys over 30 years of follow-up; many women also provided stored biospecimens, including DNA. This proposal specifically aims to examine the association of dietary fiber, intake of n-3 and n-6 poly-unsaturated fatty acids and incident CD or UC. In addition, this proposal also encompasses a novel analysis to examine the interaction between diet and genetic risk loci in mediating disease pathogenesis in a subset of patients who have biosamples available for genotyping for select CD and UC risk loci. We hope that the results from our proposal will provide compelling evidence of causality, offering a bridge to clinical translation of dietary interventions for CD and UC. In addition, the Research Scholar Award will offer me the opportunity for invaluable mentorship and training within new areas of nutritional and genetic epidemiology and comes at a critical next step in my development into a leader in clinical and translational IBD research."

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imgKaren Edelblum, PhD
University of Chicago

"I would like to thank the AGA Foundation for Digestive Health and Nutrition for this generous award. As a gastrointestinal disease researcher for the past 10 years, I am grateful to receive this honor that would not be possible without the generosity of foundation donors.

During my postdoctoral research, I have developed live in vivo imaging techniques to visualize the migration of y intraepithelial lymphocytes (lELs) within the small intestine epithelium. These studies challenge the paradigm that yo IELs are stationary in the epithelium, and provide the first evidence that y8 IELs migrate dynamically to make extensive contacts with each epithelial cell. Using molecular and genetic approaches, I identified a novel role for the tight junction protein occludin in regulating yö IEL migration into the intestinal epithelial monolayer. The purpose of the current study is to understand the molecular interactions by which y8 IELs and epithelial cells directly interact via occludin and determine how these interactions affect disease initiation and progression in a celiac-like mouse model of disease. A combination of in vivo confocal microscopy, traditional mucosal immunology, and epithelial cell biology techniques will be used to provide new mechanistic insight regarding how yO lELs function within the mucosal microenvironment to regulate health and disease development. I am proud to be a recipient of the Research Scholar Award and would like to thank all of those who made AGA support of this project possible, as it will be invaluable as I begin my independent research program."

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imgAnne Henkel, MD
Northwestern University

"I am truly honored to have been chosen to receive an American Gastroenterological Association Research Scholar Award. I wish to express my most sincere gratitude to the AGA Research Foundation for their support of my project entitled, "The role of endoplasmic reticulum stress in the pathogenesis of NASH." The prevalence of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is reaching epidemic proportions in the United States, and there is no proven therapy to prevent or treat NASH. The goal of this proposal is to establish the mechanistic role of the ER stress response in the pathogenesis of NASH. Specifically, we propose that dysregulation of the inositol requiring enzyme 1 alpha (IRE?) pathway of the ER stress response is critical to the development of NASH. To explore this hypothesis we will use genetically modified mice bearing deletions of key components of the IRE? pathway in the liver in conjunction with established murine models of NASH. With the generous support of the AGA Research Scholar Award, I will have protected time to devote to research, which is critical to my development into an independent investigator. I am hopeful that my investigations will ultimately translate into therapeutic applications for this devastating disease."

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AGA-Vertex Pharmaceuticals Research Scholar Award in Hepatitis C Translational Research

imgCarla Coffin, MSc, MD
University of Calgary

"I would like to thank the American Gastroenterology Association Research Foundation and the donor for this prestigious research award. As a junior clinician scientist, this funding will help maintain the infrastructure and laboratory resources for my program of research and facilitate the continued support and protected time for an academic career. Due to similar blood-borne transmission routes, co-infection with HCV and HIV is a common event and liver disease is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in HIV-positive persons. At the Southern Alberta HIV clinic we have one of the largest, well-defined cohorts of HIV infected patients in North America, including a comprehensive clinical database and longitudinal sample biobank archived over almost 2 decades of follow-up. Our proposed studies evaluating HCV molecular evolution, antiviral drug resistance, host immune responses, and viral reservoirs will help delineate the host and virological factors impacting virus persistence and disease progression in this complex patient population. The findings from this work will generate data for independent publications and additional peer-reviewed funding applications. I am truly grateful for receiving the 2011 AGA-Vertex Pharmaceuticals Research Scholar Award in Hepatitis C Translational Research, as it contributes significantly to my career as a clinician scientist."

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Fellowship to Faculty Transition Award

imgEdaire Cheng, MD
University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center

"I am extremely grateful to the AGA foundation for selecting me as a recipient of the Fellowship to Faculty Transition Award. This award will be an invaluable asset to the start of my career as a young physician-scientist in the field of esoinophilic esophagitis (EoE) research. Eosinophilic esophagitis is only a recently recognized disease of the esophagus that can affect both children and adults. Oftentimes EoE and GERD share many clinical and histological features that pose challenges to the management and diagnosis of EoE. My research involves novel model systems using esophageal squamous epithelial cells derived from esophageal biopsies of patients with EoE and patients with GERD. My goal is to investigate the different mechanisms and pathways, in particular eotaxin-3 expression, by which the esophageal epithelial cells induce eosinophil infiltration. By studying these pathways, I hope to have a better understanding of the disease process of EoE and to identify potential diagnostic biomarkers and targets for future therapies. The results generated during this award will subsequently be used as preliminary data for an NIH K08 application. My long-term endeavor is to be an independent investigator and a leader in the field of EoE. And I hope to encourage other young physicians to the field of pediatric gastroenterology and participation in research."

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imgJatin Roper, MD
Tufts Medical Center

"I am honored to receive the 2011 Fellowship to Faculty Transition Award from the AGA Foundation. I would like to thank the selection committee for their interest in my work and the foundation members who generously contributed to the Award. This award will afford me the necessary protected time to develop experimental skills and acquire the fund of knowledge necessary for the transition to being an independent investigator.

The overall goal of the proposed studies is to define and target compensatory signaling pathways critical for colorectal carcinogenesis. For this purpose, my mentor (Dr. Kenneth Hung) has developed a novel genetically engineered mouse model for sporadic colorectal cancer (CRC) in which genes known to be involved in colorectal carcinogenesis, such as Apc and Kras, are targeted for deletion or activation in the distal colon. The resulting tumors present along the entire adenoma-carcinoma-metastasis axis, as seen in human patients, and can be imaged, biopsied , and resected with optical colonoscopy. We used this mouse model to test the therapeutic efficacy of inhibition of specific intracellular signaling pathways known to play a central role in colorectal carcinogenesis. Whereas initial blockade was effective in curbing tumor growth, we observed rebound activation in a parallel signaling pathway that may ultimately limit the long-term efficacy of such treatments. The focus of my work under the Fellowship to Faculty Transition Award will be to test the hypothesis that combined blockade of these multiple signaling pathways will be a more effective treatment strategy for colorectal cancer."

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R. Robert & Sally Funderburg Research Award in Gastric Biology Related to Cancer

imgAndrea Todisco, MD
University of Michigan

"I am deeply honored I was chosen to receive the Funderburg Award. My laboratory has had a long-standing interest in the elucidation of the mechanisms that regulate the growth and differentiation of the gastric epithelium. Chronic inflammation is known to cause perturbations in the regulatory mechanisms that maintain the normal morphological and functional features of the gastric mucosa, leading to the development of diseases such as gastritis and gastric cancer. The factors involved in the pathogenesis of these conditions have been only partially characterized. The Bone Morphogenetic Proteins (BMPs), in particular, are peptides produced by gastrointestinal tissues that have been shown to regulate gastrointestinal growth and development. Interestingly, members of the BMP family of proteins have been also shown to inhibit inflammation in the gut. Taken together, these observations suggest that the BMPs might represent important regulators of gastrointestinal inflammation. Accordingly, the overall goal of the studies funded by the Funderburg Award will be to examine the function and the mechanisms of actions of the BMPs in the regulation of the inflammatory response in the stomach. These investigations will help us gain new insight into the mechanisms involved in the pathophysiology of gastric inflammation and carcinogenesis."

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AGA-June & Donald O. Castell, MD Esophageal Clinical Research Award

imgJames Franciosi, MD, MS, MSCE
Cincinnati Children's Hospital

 

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Elsevier Pilot Grant

imgAshwin Ananthakrishnan, MD, MPH
Massachusetts General Hospital

"It is truly an honor to be a recipient of the AGA Research Scholar Award. I'd like to express my gratitude to the American Gastroenterological Association and Foundation for Digestive Health and Nutrition for conferring this award on me as I start my academic career.

My research proposal aims to improve our understanding of environmental risk factors for the development of Crohn's Disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC), in particular - diet. Over 90 genetic risk loci have been described for CD or UC, but these incompletely account for disease risk, suggesting a strong role for environmental factors, including diet. To generate high-quality epidemiologic evidence for specific dietary triggers of disease onset, I propose to examine the relationship between prospectively collected information on diet and risk of incident CD and UC among women enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study (NHS) I and II. These cohorts collectively includes 238,386 women who have provided detailed, biennial health surveys over 30 years of follow-up; many women also provided stored biospecimens, including DNA. This proposal specifically aims to examine the association of dietary fiber, intake of n-3 and n-6 poly-unsaturated fatty acids and incident CD or UC. In addition, this proposal also encompasses a novel analysis to examine the interaction between diet and genetic risk loci in mediating disease pathogenesis in a subset of patients who have biosamples available for genotyping for select CD and UC risk loci. We hope that the results from our proposal will provide compelling evidence of causality, offering a bridge to clinical translation of dietary interventions for CD and UC. In addition, the Research Scholar Award will offer me the opportunity for invaluable mentorship and training within new areas of nutritional and genetic epidemiology and comes at a critical next step in my development into a leader in clinical and translational IBD research."

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AGA-Moti L. & Kamla Rustgi International Travel Awards

imgJan Däbritz, MD
University Children's Hospital of Münster

" I am honored to be selected as a recipient of the 2011 AGA Rustgi Research Award for the third time and I would like to thank Dr. Anil K. Rustgi, his family, and the American Gastroenterological Association Foundation for Digestive Health and Nutrition for their support.

The overall aim of my work at the University of Münster, Germany, is to reveal novel insights into the pathogenesis of Crohn’s Disease, and to identify mechanisms by which the modulation of innate immunity bears a potential of altering the natural history of this disease. Clinical trials showed that Granulocyte Macrophage-Colony Stimulating Factor (GM-CSF) induces clinical response and remission in patients with active Crohn’s disease. Recent studies suggest a causal link between impaired inflammation and impaired bacterial clearance in CD due to alterations of monocytes/macrophages. As blood monocytes are the exclusive source of macrophages in inflamed intestinal mucosa I therefore characterize GM-CSF induced monocyte subsets in vitro and analyzed their role in experimental colitis in vivo.

This work was generously supported by the Broad Medical Research Program (BMRP), the Medical Faculty of the University of Münster, the German Research Foundation (DFG), and the German Society for Digestive and Metabolic Diseases (DGVS). Again, I would like to acknowledge my sincere appreciation to the AGA Foundation. "

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imgYukari Tanaka, MD
Tohoku University

" It is a great honor and pleasure of mine to be selected by the AGA as a recipient of the Moti L. & Kamla Rustgi International Travel Awards. I would sincerely like to thank the AGA for their support.

I am in the research team of Professor Shin Fukudo. We previously reported that peptidergic modification of CRH receptors changes visceral sensorimotor function in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). At this meeting, I gave an oral presentation that exogenous CRH accelerates regional brain activity measured with positron emission tomography during visceral stimulation in human. During visceral stimulation, administration of CRH likely accelerates the activity of the brain regions which regulate interoception, hypothalamic regulation, stress coping, stress response, and negative emotion. I obtained the results suggesting that exogenous CRH with colorectal distention may synergistically amplify ACTH and cortisol secretion.

I also gave poster presentation entitled “Increased Postprandial Colonic Motility is Associated with Sympathetic Nerve Activity in Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.” This study is one of collaborative studies with the group of Professor William E. Whitehead, University of North Carolina. The results indicated that a noxious visceral stimulus enhances sympathetic activity in both IBS and healthy subjects. In patients with IBS, greater postprandial sympathetic activity is associated with greater colonic motility, which may contribute to postprandial symptoms.

I was provided some fruitful discussion with audience. Their comments and questions are helpful to strength our research.

Lastly, please let me touch our horrible experience of earthquake and tsunami in Sendai, Japan on March 11, 2011. During our hard time, we were so much encouraged by many friends and colleagues of AGA. A friend in need is a friend indeed. I would once again like to impress my deepest thanks upon the AGA for a great opportunity and friendship."

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AGA-Horizon Pharma Fellow Abstract Prize

imgTaeko Noah, PhD
Cincinnati Children's Medical Center

"It is a great honor to be selected by the American Gastroenterology Association as a recipient of the AGA-Horizon Pharma Fellow Abstract Prize. I deeply appreciate the effort of the AGA and the generosity of Horizon Pharma in encouraging the development of young investigators in the field of gastroenterology and hepatology research. I would also like to thank my mentor Dr. Noah Shroyer and the Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition at Cincinnati Children's Medical Center for providing me the support for my postdoctoral training. Some of my research goals include understanding the function of a transcriptional factor SPDEF in the intestinal epithelium and apply this knowledge to gain an insight into its role in pathogenesis of colon cancer. This award provides personal validation with regard to my efforts in addition to the opportunity to meet great researchers in the field and to exchange ideas and information that would advance my research forward. Again, I would like to thank the AGA for providing me this opportunity."

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imgAnne Peery, MD
University of North Carolina

"As a research fellow at the University of North Carolina, I have devoted the past two years to clinical research, from obtaining a Masters in Clinical Research to working with numerous mentors to design, execute, and publish new research in the medical literature. To be selected by leaders in the field as worthy of the AGA-Horizon Pharma Fellow Abstract Prize was a significant honor for me, the kind of commendation one remembers at three in the morning when you are struggling with a particularly recalcitrant data set. Furthermore, the financial support allowed me to spend additional time at Digestive Diseases Week in Chicago, seeing more presentations of exactly the sort of high level research I aspire to produce myself. For those of us who want to add to the body of GI literature, nothing is better than inspiration, and the work presented at DDW is always nothing short of inspiring. These awards mean the world to young researchers like myself. Thanks for making them possible."

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imgSonghua Zhang, MD, PhD
Rhode Island Hospital, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University

 

"I am greatly honored to be selected as a recipient of the 2011 AGA-Horizon Pharma Fellow Abstract Prize and I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the AGA Foundation and Horizon Pharma for this generous financial support. As a dedicated gastrointestinal research fellow, I am always very eager and excited to attend the most prestigious AGA annual meeting and Digestive Disease Week. It is a great pleasure to have my abstract entitled “Bioimmunoinformatic approach to mine H. pylori genomes for targeted vaccine development” recognized by the AGA-Horizon Pharma Fellow Abstract Prize selection committee, facilitating my travel to Chicago for presenting my work at DDW2011. I would also like to thank my mentor, Professor Steven Moss at Brown University, for giving me the opportunity, guiding me through this interesting vaccine project, and encouraging me to apply for this award. The AGA annual meeting provides a unique opportunity and valuable experience for me to meet and learn from the GI experts, share ideas and discuss with other researchers in my field, find potential collaborators and broaden my eyes for my future scientific research. This award inspires me to continue my academic career in gastrointestinal research and I look forward to contributing more efforts in working to prevent and treat H. pylori infection and its consequences. "

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AGA-Horizon Pharma Student Abstract Prize

imgEvelyn Covés-Datson
University of Michigan

"I extend many warm thanks to the AGA for the exciting opportunity to attend my first DDW conference, indeed my first ever conference, with such generous financial support. As an undergraduate student, it means a great deal to me to be a recipient of the Student Abstract Prize in the company of many exemplary researchers. I feel truly welcomed by the gastroenterological community and will be indebted to this award for many years to come for funding the foundation of the conference-going phase of my scientific career. Having learned much about the power of presenting one's work to peers in the context of a national forum, I look forward to attending more conferences in the future, perhaps DDW 2012 or beyond. In addition to defraying the costs of my travel to DDW 2011, the award inspires in me the drive to further the research that I was fortunate enough to present this year. I plan to use the remaining financial support provided by the award either to further my training as a research scientist or to fund my current research project where necessary."

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imgJessica Donnely
University of Cincinnati

"I was honored to be selected for the AGA-Horizon Pharma Student Abstract Prize and would like to thank both organizations for sponsoring this award. The recognition alone was exciting but it also allowed me to present my work in front of a new audience and experts within my field, providing me with valuable advice and critiques. Importantly, by supporting my attendance at Digestive Diseases Week I was able to develop new relationships with investigators and students who will be sources of knowledge and collaboration in the future. By attending the conference and taking in the breadth of research going on at institutions all over the world and the latest discoveries I was inspired to improve my own research efforts. You are constantly exposed to a new perspective on a related topic or area of research which makes you consider new ideas that may advance your own project. My experience at DDW and being selected for this award were both proud moments I'll associate with my graduate studies."

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imgBirgit Ey
Hospital of Essen/University of Duisburg

"I am honored that the AGA has selected me as a recipient of the 2011 AGA Student Abstract Prize. As a PhD Student in Dr. Elke Cario's lab at the University of Duisburg Essen, Germany, my research focuses on the study of innate immune responses in the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel diseases. This award will help to defray the costs of my international travel to DDW2011 in Chicago. Attending DDW will greatly enhance my graduate training experience, by providing a unique forum for presentation of my research to the scientific community and advancing my knowledge of the most current information and views in GI research. It will also give me the opportunity to network and develop contacts with other trainees and IBD researchers from the US and other parts of the world. I am very grateful to the AGA for having granted me this award and for their generous support in my research and career endeavors."

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Yining Fu
University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center

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imgVictoria Gomez
Mayo Clinic

"Being an AGA Abstract Prize recipient is a wonderful honor! I appreciate the American Gastroneterology Association's committment to recognizing and supporting research conducted by students and physicians in training. This award resembles more than just a monetary gift- rather, it truly represents the enthusiasm and dedication for expanding the field of gastroenterology and hepatology at all levels of training and experience. Being able to attend Digestive Disease Week 2011 is a great honor and amazing experience, and an event that I hope to continue to participate in for years to come. Being able to share my interest and work in colon cancer detection with colleagues all over the world is a privilege that was made possible through AGA funding. I look forward to exploring this field of medicine even more as I take my next step toward studying and practicing gastroenterology as a fellow."

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Suraj Gupta, MD
University of Michigan

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Shabnam Khatami, MD
University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center

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imgRachel Lees-Green
Mayo Clinic

"I am truly grateful to be a recipient of the AGA-Horizon Pharma Student Abstract Prize. This award facilitated my travel to attend Digestive Disease Week (DDW) 2011 in Chicago. This was the first time I have attended DDW, and it was a great honor to be able to present my work at such a prestigious international meeting and to receive feedback from some of the leading researchers in the field. Travelling to DDW enabled me to access cutting-edge research in gastroenterology, and provided a significant opportunity for me to engage with other scientists and experts in the field, which helps me gain ideas and motivation for furthering my research career. The study I presented at DDW was an international collaboration between researchers at The University of Auckland in New Zealand and the Mayo Clinic, so attending DDW also provided an excellent opportunity for me to communicate face-to-face with my collaborators to discuss further research opportunities.

My PhD research utilizes computational modeling techniques to better understand the electrical function of interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC) and smooth muscle cells in the gastrointestinal tract. Computational modeling is an excellent tool for describing complex systems and for integrating and predicting experimental findings across different scales, and being able to communicate with clinical and basic science researchers is a vital part of my work. I greatly appreciate the support that the AGA-Horizon Pharma Student Abstract Prizes provide for me and other students to travel to present and learn at DDW. Having my research recognized in this way motivates me to continue researching in the field of gastroenterology."

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imgStephanie Owyang
University of Michigan

"It is a great honor to receive the AGA Student Abstract Prize. For the last three years, I have had the pleasure of working with Dr. John Kao on gut immunology. I was a recipient of the AGA Student Research Fellowship Award in 2008, which introduced me to research. For the last two summers, I have continued work in the lab and solidified my interest in research. This year, the AGA Student Abstract Prize enabled me to attend DDW for the second time to present my work. Attending DDW was a great opportunity for me to meet with experts in the field of gut immunology, interact with other students, and gain some insight into their research projects. I am thankful to the AGA for its support in my endeavors."

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imgSunny Singh, MD
University of Manitoba

"I was ecstatic to have found out that my research had been chosen for oral presentation at this year's 2011 DDW annual conference. Furthermore, it was a great honour to be selected as one of the recipients for the AGA-Horizon Pharma Abstract Prize. The monetary prize was a great way to offset costs of traveling but the real crux of being awarded this prize is the shear recognition for the intellectually valuable outcomes my colleagues and I have contributed through our research. This award aims to stimulate interest in gastroenterology/hepatology research careers through recognition and I believe it entirely fulfills that goal. This award has provided my colleagues and myself validation and encouragement to continue to pursue excellence in the field of gastroenterology, with my ultimate goal being to advance patient care through validated, well-accepted research – not only in Canada, but across the globe. I would like to extend a thank you to AGA and Horizon Pharma for providing support to young researchers like myself!"

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imgAndrea Tyler, HBSc
Mt. Sinai Hospital/University of Toronto

"I am truly honored that the AGA chose me as one of the recipients of an AGA Student Abstract Prize. As a Graduate Student at the University of Toronto, my primary area of interest is the study of both genetic and microbial factors associated with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. This award was hugely beneficial in facilitating my travel to DDW in Chicago which gave me the opportunity to meet and interact with other students and research professionals in this field. I found many of the talks and posters quite relevant to my work and I hope to be able to continue to exchange ideas and information that will have a beneficial impact on the quality of my work. I intend to continue my work in the field of Inflammatory Bowel Disease and hope to continue to contribute to the ongoing research in this area. Having my research recognized by the AGA is an honor that will be beneficial in these future endeavors.

I once again thank the committee for having granted me this award and look forward to my time at DDW."

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AGA-Eli & Edythe Broad Student Research Fellowship Award

imgMary Brown
Five Knolls Academy

"I would like to extend my sincere thanks to the AGA and the Foundation for the privilege they have given me in awarding me the 2011 AGA-Eli & Edythe Broad Student Research Fellowship Award. This award will help expand my knowledge of the gastrointestinal response to hypoxia and increase my experience in the laboratory by providing funding for research opportunities. I will conduct my project, Hypoxia disrupts recovery of injured non-transformed intestinal cells, but not transformed cells, at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine under the consummate guidance of my mentor Dr. Anthony Blikslager and his post-doctoral fellow, Prashant Nighot.

Hypoxia results in diminished intestinal epithelial barrier function, which results in exposure of the mucosal immune system to the non-sterile luminal contents of the gut, leading to chronic and acute inflammatory disease syndromes such as IBD. However, our preliminary data suggest that the epithelial barrier function of transformed cells is protected by some mechanism, possibly the expression of hypoxia inducible factor-1? (HIF-1 ?), not present in non-transformed cell lines. Therefore, we aim to elucidate the role HIF-1 ? in order to better understand the molecular mechanisms of epithelial barrier function and thus be able to use specific components of the signaling pathway to hasten barrier repair following hypoxia."

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imgMarissa Cominelli
Hawken School

"I have always found myself interested in the topics we cover in Biology, particularly those dealing with human disease processes. Last summer, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to spend time in the laboratories of Drs. Derek Abbott and Theresa Pizarro at Case Western Reserve in the Department of Pathology. In their laboratories, I learned basic laboratory techniques of gene silencing and working with animal models of inflammatory bowel disease, respectively. However, I was ready to take it to the next level and try to develop these skills in an independent project that would address a unique hypothesis-driven question. Preparing for the AGA-Eli & Edythe Broad Student Research Fellowship Award allowed me to work with my mentors and synthesize and plan out such a project and was truly an eye opening experience! It further enhanced my interest in the experimental process as it has brought me closer to achieving my goal of pursuing medical research and possibly making new discoveries. I also believe the award will have a very positive effect on my future and will further ignite my interests in science later on in my academic career. I am very enthusiastic about this opportunity to continue work in Drs. Abbott and Pizarro's laboratories, and am grateful to be a recipient of this prestigious award."

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imgChristopher Griffiths
Upper Canada College

"I am honored to be granted and thrilled to accept this scholarship to undertake basic research concerning the function of genes involved in the development of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) in young children. Building upon my experience from working in Dr. Muise's lab last summer at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto, I am looking forward to the opportunity to develop more laboratory research skills, including accessing data from the Human Genome Project. I am particularly excited to have my own project, through which I will experience firsthand the scientific method and its uncertainties. In September, I will begin my Bachelor of Health Science degree at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, a program which demands self-directed learning and includes opportunities for extended basic science research projects. I hope to ultimately study medicine and pursue a career as a clinician scientist and I believe that this scholarship is the perfect stepping stone for that."

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imgDavid Liu
Eastside High School

"I have always been immensely interested in science, particularly in cancer biology. I have worked in labs before for school science projects, and I was fascinated by both the wonders of experimental biology as well as the setting, learning lab procedures and the scientific process. After doing the work proposed in this summer, I am hopeful that my work will be a contribution for fighting cancer. More importantly, I am sure that I will gain tremendous experience and education, which will help prepare pursue a career as a scientist. I am very thankful for the AGA Eli & Edythe Broad Fellowship because it will give me the opportunity to pursue my passions in science and technology. Through this fellowship, I will be able to work with my mentor to improve my scientific investigation. I also realize the huge scale of this fellowship, as it will allow me to interact with the leaders and thinkers of the scientific research community at the 2012 DDW. It excites me to think of the opportunity to present my research in front of experts and the opportunity to be exposed to the exciting projects of other scientists. This fellowship will introduce me to the frontier of GI research, something that would otherwise be all but impossible. Since I know that I want to pursue research as a career, I am thankful to be part of it at such an early age. I am both humbled and honored by the opportunities this fellowship presents towards my future scientific endeavors."

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imgAkanksha Mishra
Mount Notre Dame High School

"I thank the review panel of the AGA-Eli & Edythe Broad Student Research Fellowship Award for considering my application and awarding this prestigious fellowship. This fellowship will provide me the opportunity to work on my own project this summer at the Allergy and Immunology Division of Cincinnati Childrens Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, Ohio. This AGA award will enhance my basic understanding on the biology of eosinophils and their role in experimental systems in mice, and to develop a proper framework to establish a direct translation of my findings to human esophageal disease. I strongly believe that my proposed research work will give me a new understanding on the medical research and hope that my work will provide the future direction to understand the mechanistic aspects of the esophageal disease, termed as eosinophilic esophagitis. I also hope that this AGA-Broad Student Research Award will provide me the opportunity to define the immunological mechanisms involved in gastrointestinal allergy and will facilitate the new direction to the laboratory of Drs. Mishra and Rothenberg for testing of future novel interventions. In summary, the award will shape my career goal to work hard and get my data published that will help me to get the admission in obtaining MD, PhD degree."

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imgKei Nakagawa
Lower Merion High School

"I feel incredibly honored to be receiving the AGA-Eli & Edythe Broad Student Research Fellowship Award, and would like to thank the AGA Foundation for selecting me as one of its recipients. I am especially indebted to Dr. Anil K. Rustgi, my mentor who has continually encouraged and guided my work at the University of Pennsylvania. My entire experience there at the facility has been unique and inspirational, not only teaching me about basic laboratory procedures, but also communication and networking skills with the various team members working under Dr. Rustgi, whom all I consider to be valuable and irreplaceable mentors. Through this grant, I hope to continue to gain knowledge about cellular biology, as well as conduct scientific research to contribute to the medical field. Again, I would like the sincerely thank the committee for granting me this award."

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imgChristopher Owyang
Green Hills School

"I am honored and humbled to receive the AGA-Eli & Edythe Broad Student Research Fellowship Award. I have always been fascinated by how microbial organisms interact with their hosts. From textbooks I have learned about microbial organisms and the nature of their relationships with their hosts. This award will offer me a real life opportunity to work in a laboratory environment where I will have the chance to perform dendritic cell cultures and use computers to decipher DNA sequences. In addition, I will be able to investigate, through research, some of the mysteries surrounding the relationship between bacteria and their human hosts. This invaluable hands-on experience will allow me to use biological research to formulate hypotheses, perform experiments, and learn to analyze the results. This research experience will give me a strong foundation to continue studying biological sciences through college."

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imgBenjamin Toll
Hendrick Hudson High School

"It is an honor to have been selected for the AGA-Eli & Edythe Broad Student Research Fellowship Award and to have the opportunity to return to Dr. Peter Higgins' lab at the University of Michigan Medical Center.

Our study centers around Inflammatory Bowel Disease, an auto-immune digestive disorder characterized by cyclical disease activity and a wide-range of debilitating symptoms. Unfortunately, many patients need steroids -- powerful anti-inflammatory agents -- to achieve remission. Prolonged exposure to steroids, however, can result in reduced bone density, muscle breakdown, and weight gain, and insufficient exposure can result in a resurgence of IBD symptoms. Clearly, if steroid dosage is to be optimized, an objective, practical, IBD-specific tool is needed.

We hypothesize that calprotectin-based tests can serve this purpose. Calprotectin is a 36 kDA protein biomarker found in 60% of a neutrophil's cytosol -- and this means that an influx in calprotectin levels from patient stool samples should correspond to an increase in neutrophils and an increase in intestinal inflammation. If this research proves that calprotectin can optimize a steroid taper, patient treatment could be significantly improved.

I hope this study will postively impact treatment for IBD patients and provide the research community with a better understanding of the disease. Last summer, I had the opportunity to learn about Inflammatory Bowel Disease and work with people dedicated medical research. I'm sure my experience this year will be equally valuable. "

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imgAngela Wiley
Rudolf Steiner High School

"As a high school student I am just starting my exposure to research. The AGA Eli & Edythe Broad Student Research Fellowship Award provides a wonderful opportunity to work with an outstanding mentor and investigator, Dr. Ellen Zimmermann to learn something about how activation of specific regulators of inflammation play a role in the development of colitis and the perception of pain.

I have been interested in science for as long as I remember. I believe that this interest originates, in part, from the role that science plays in helping us to better understand how nature works. The AGA-Broad Student Research Award provides the opportunity to explore one aspect of how nature works. I view this as an exciting and challenging opportunity that will help prepare me for subsequent challenges and opportunities in the future.

I wish to thank the AGA Research Foundation for creating this award and funding this application, and my primary mentor, Dr. Zimmermann for her generous and enthusiastic support."

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AGA-Stuart Brotman Student Research Fellowship Award

imgDanielle Adekunle
University of Maryland

"As a person intending to go into a research career, having a thorough understanding of the research process is crucial. The skills and knowledge gained working in a research laboratory translate to the classroom. Reading about science or attending scientific lectures cannot alone provide the deep insights that are required of researchers today. In order to advance in a field that is constantly changing and to contribute to modern scientific research, building a strong fundamental understanding of scientific research concepts is key. There is no greater place to extend and gain a thorough understanding of scientific subject matter than in the laboratory. As a young minority student growing up in the rural community of Berlin, MD I never imagined a career in biomedicine would be a possibility for me. To receive The Stuart Brotman Student Research Fellowship Award is not only a dream come true, but also an honor. As a result of this award, I have the opportunity as an undergraduate to pursue a career in biomedicine from a research perspective.

Having strong research experiences as an undergraduate will allow me to be a high performing scholar at the graduate school level as well. As an individual intending on pursuing a career as an MD/PhD the experiences that I can gain as a result of this award are crucial. It is investments made in student researchers by organizations such as the AGA that allow the fields of biomedicine and translational research to advance. The act of discovery and the endless challenges that a career in biomedical research entails are the driving forces behind my desire to pursue a career as a physician-scientist. As a result of this award I will be able to pursue my passion to become a researcher in the fields of gastroenterology and oncology. "

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imgPeter Altshuler
University of Maryland

"I am very honored to be a recipient of the 2011 AGA-Stuart Brotman Student Research Fellowship Award. This award allows me to further my work and take on an even greater responsibility under the patient and instructive guidance of Dr. Bishr Omary, Dr. Sujith Weerasinghe and the rest of the Omary Lab in the Department of Molecular & Integrative Physiology at the University of Michigan. For the past year I have worked with Dr. Weerasinghe to study the role of keratins and their degradation by caspases in acute acute liver injury in mice. My project during the fellowship period will continue along this thread, and my specific aims are two-fold: first, to analyze the effect of blocking keratin degradation on acute liver injury in-vivo and, second, to test the effects of blocking keratin degradation during apoptosis on hepatocyte injury ex-vivo.

This fellowship will not only provide me with an opportunity to take on a more prominent and independent role in Dr. Omary's lab, but will also function as an ideal stepping stone as I continue my progress towards medical school and ultimately a career as a physician and possibly a physician scientist. I would like to thank the AGA for granting me this tremendous opportunity, and to thank Dr. Omary, Dr. Weerasinghe and the rest of the Omary Lab for their continued support. "

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imgFarhan Anwar
University of Arizona

"As clichéd as it is to say, it truly is an honor to win this award. It can pave the way for a variety of opportunities, all of which I will aim to obtain. The immediate contribution this award will have is to aid in the eventual progress of the project. The project itself is a surveillance study on the rising number of cases of Clostridium difficile infections (CDI) in the city of Tucson. Overall, this study will have epidemiological contributions towards this disease that is quickly becoming a menace in hospitals abound, even surpassing MRSA as the leading nosocomial infection in some states. It is multifactorial, arduous to treat, and difficult to rid. By molecularly profiling the various samples in Tucson and determining how often a specific strain is matched to a sample, not only will the severity of disease be able to be determined but the predictability of relapse increases as well. Eventually this project will give laboratory data that will have translational applications in hospitals concerning diagnoses, treatments, and preventative measures. As this project grows, I want my knowledge and contributions to grow as well. I will learn various techniques, methodologies and overall knowledge that will add to my repertoire; all of which are absolutely instrumental and will be intensely utilized in the future that I envision for myself. While research had not always been my first goal, it has definitely become a solid interest that I wish to pursue. This project will be the foundation of my future endeavors in gastroenterology revolving around the theme of translational research."

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imgZachary Bradshaw
Vanderbilt University

"I am overjoyed to be a recipient of the 2011 AGA Student Research Fellowship awards for my project, "A novel approach to isolate and analyze the structure of human Myosin Vb in complex with Rab 11a directly on EM grids." I am unendingly grateful to the AGA for this opportunity to further both my technical experience and my conceptual understanding in this field. While I have always been interested in the field of biological research, I have never felt so connected to a project until now. I spent the summer after my senior year in this research lab, and as I have gained a wealth of knowledge in the methods utilized, I feel well equipped to successfully pursue the visualization of these proteins this summer after my freshman year of college. My mentors, Drs. Joseph Roland and James Goldenring, have been exceedingly helpful in this endeavor. I am excited for this chance to advance my career in the sciences, and I am appreciative of the efforts of both my mentors and of the AGA to extend this great opportunity to me. Thank you."

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imgSanders Chang
University of Pennsylvania

"I am greatly honored to be one of the recipients of the AGA-Eli & Edythe Broad Student Research Fellowship Award. Thanks to the guidance of my mentors, Dr. Hiroshi Nakagawa and Dr. Mistuteru Natsuizaka, I have become acquainted with fascinating topics in gastroenterology that I would not have encountered on my own or in my classes. Working in their lab has shown me the many rewards of performing biomedical research, from the personal growth that I can experience to the amazing impact that can be made on other people's lives. I thereby look forward to using this award to support and continue my research experience in their lab.

Our project aims at clarifying the elusive role that the Notch signaling pathway has in the proliferation of esophageal cancer stem cells. Understanding this relationship will help explain why the Notch signaling pathway plays either an oncogenic or a tumor suppressor-like role in different cellular contexts. With this fellowship, I will be challenged to think more critically and ask more incisive questions. I hope that new perspectives on this project will arise, offering possibilities to expand its scope to other fields in science and medicine. Ultimately, I highly anticipate that this research experience will be transformed into an endeavor extending beyond my college years. Thank you to the Broad Foundation for providing me with this generous opportunity."

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imgBenjamin Fox
Boston University

"The AGA student search award allows me to continue my research on pancreatic adenocarcinoma. Upon reveiving the reward, I immediately recognized the opportunity that opend up for me. With this award, I will not only be able to continue research, but I will be able to do so with a new sense of motivation. That is, I am working as a distinguished student and must perform as such. Ultimately, I hope this award allows me, and in conjunction, my team to make strides in our project. With this experience, I hope to foray into research as a profession. I hope to perform research in a medical context using, in part, the science and skills learned during my research under the AGA award. Although I hope to become a physician, I am planning on maintaining laboratory research as a focus of mine. Again, this award is a strong start into a research career, which I hope pursue along side my medical career."

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imgCameron Hecht
University of Chicago

"By receiving this award, I have been given an opportunity to do research that will be integral to my future work as a scientist. My intention is to continue to increase each aspect of my education that will lead to my future ability to do research in the field of neuroscience. Although aspects of this education will come from undergraduate and graduate level courses in psychology and biology, the opportunity to do gastrointestinal research will provide unique experience that cannot be fully achieved through the pursuit of these courses. By researching probiotics and their effects on ion transport in different sections of the digestive tract, I will attain both a deeper understanding of cellular biology and direct experience (as well as personal mentoring and training) in performing techniques that will be necessary to study the brain on a cellular level. I am grateful for having been granted the AGA-Stuart Brotman Student Research Fellowship award, and am confident that the experience that will be attained from this opportunity will prove to be a crucial step in my development as a future scientist."

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imgMargaret Jones
Vanderbilt University

"I am honored to receive a 2011 AGA Foundation Student Research Fellowship Award. Receiving this generous award allows me to continue my research with the Goldenring Lab at Vanderbilt's Epithelial Biology Center. My project on the co-expression and purification MyosinVb and Rab8a will endeavor to produce a combination of the two in quantities sufficient for NMR structure analysis. Personally, however, this award means much more than that. It will allow me to continue to do the most interesting and fulfilling work I've ever done. Both Dr. James Goldenring and my mentor, Dr. Joseph Roland, continually encourage and challenge me to expand my understanding of biology and what it means to be a researcher. In the future, I intend to continue to do research, and this award will help me reach my scientific goals."

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imgYunzhou Li
Virginia Commonwealth University

"First off, I would like to give my thanks to the members of the AGA Research Award Panel for granting me this award for it is with great honor that I receive it. As an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, I've come to realize the importance of research and also the difficulty of coming across research opportunities. Therefore, first and foremost, this award will provide me with another valuable opportunity to conduct research in a laboratory, increase the depth of my knowledge with regards to proper research and scientific technique, and work with knowledgeable people in the field. Secondly, from my previous research experience, I've come to discover the true value and meaning of research. Despite research being limited in techniques and equipment, the research ideas and topics are limitless. It is the researchers that are at the forefront of the scientific field, pushing the boundaries of our human knowledge and understanding further, and for me, to be able to have this ability to walk into and explore uncharted territory is both exciting and motivating. Finally, I have always been interested in the field of medicine, and no matter what field in medicine I decide to pursue, it is undeniable that medicine begins with research. Even from my topic alone, this connection can be seen, as the results of my research can have an impact on the medical field as I look into a new direction of therapeutics for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, affecting a third of the adult population here in the United States. I would like to thank Dr. Pandak for his time and continued support. I've been able to work with Dr. Pandak before and look forward to working under him again.

Once again, I would like to express my gratitude this award. It will stand as, I hope, another stepping stone of my pursuit in a career in the field of medicine and medical research."

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imgIan Maina
University of North Texas

"I've always believed I was meant to contribute to humanity as a health professional and the tremendous honor of receiving this prestigious award will give me much more insight into the various ways I can do so. The award will be of great assistance in the completion of my project, Analyzing a new enzyme assay, a-GST in patients with acute liver failure, under the mentorship of Dr. William Lee at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. We will be working to develop decay curves for alpha-GST in parallel with using existing AST/ALT levels to calculate half lives in acetaminophen overdose patients and to compare them with samples from patients with milder diseases such as viral hepatitis or drug-induced liver injury. I am very excited as this is my first research opportunity in the field of medicine. Also, Gastroenterology is relatively new to me but I am eager to walk in the lab every day to gain knowledge and contribute as much as I can as well.

I must thank Dr. Corron Sanders, Dr. Lafaine Grant, Dr. Shawna Nesbitt, and most importantly Dr. William Lee. They worked with me throughout the application process and have been exemplary mentors. I could not have done it without them. With this grant I will gain much research experience and insight into some operations within the field of Gastroenterology. Again, I send my appreciation to the AGA Foundation for allowing me this great opportunity."

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imgAngelical Martin
University of Michigan

"I am honored to receive the Stuart-Brotman Student Research Fellowship Award from the AGA Research Foundation. Throughout my undergraduate career I have developed a drive, a passion for basic research—one that I have been able to effectuate through my work as a young researcher. I am interested in translational research and would like to conduct basic research that has a direct and meaningful health outcome. I believe the best way to conduct this kind of research is by becoming a physician scientist, which is why the next step for me is to enroll in an MD/PhD program. This research fellowship award is a great steppingstone to realizing this career objective.

In addition, this student research fellowship will provide me the opportunity to complete my current research project under the mentorship of Dr. Yatrik Shah at the University of Michigan's School of Medicine. We have demonstrated that in liver-derived cell lines overexpression of the full-length hypoxia inducible factor-3? (HIF-3?) inhibits hepcidin expression significantly. This suggests that HIF-3? is the most critical of three isoforms in the hypoxic regulation of hepcidin. Our aim then is to understand this pathway with the potential to provide a novel mechanism to treating iron overload and anemia."

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imgJennifer Mkoma
Meharry Medical College

"This award, the 2011 AGA-Stuart Brotman Student Research Fellowship (AGA- SBSRF), is the first award of my life and it has multiple meanings for my future research endeavors. First, to be affiliated with the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) Research Foundation has always been my dream. Now that it has happened, I will focus on becoming a future Physician-Scientist in pediatric gastroenterology. I am fortunate to have the privilege to advance in the field because both my parents are involved in research and will advise me, especially in translational research. I will seek to learn the basics of the foremost problems in GI biology and how different situations can play a role in influencing the outcomes of various pathologies exhibited in living organisms, such as in humans. It is my hope that this ten-week-2011-AGA-SBSRF will encourage and allow me to extract enough research data so that I can submit an abstract, and if accepted, I will be eligible to apply for the AGA-Horizon Pharma Student Abstract Prize for travel expenses to the forthcoming May 19-22, 2012 Digestive Disease Week congress to be held in San Diego, CA."

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imgDavid Nguyen
Stanford University

"I am honored to have received the AGA Stuart Brotman Student Research Fellowship Award. I also would like to thank Dr. A. Habtezion for her guidance and mentorship.

My long-term career goal is to become a medical researcher (physician scientist) and I have been fascinated with the wide spectrum of diseases and challenges involving the digestive tract. The opportunity to work in Dr. Habtezion's lab will undoubtedly provide me with an excellent opportunity to learn the critical thinking as well as the methodology for today's research. Perhaps what excites me the most is the potential impact of our laboratory's work on acute pancreatitis in humans, a disease for which active therapy is yet to be found. I am excited to study the role of hemeoxygenase-1 in acute pancreatitis and investigate mechanisms that can be potentially used as therapeutic targets. To see this from the front lines is nothing short of inspiring as the ultimate goal of medical research is to transfer successful results from the bench to the bedside."

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imgJack Nutugah
University of Pittsburgh

"When I discovered my purpose in life I was a junior in high school. I knew that service in the health field was what would make my life meaningful. However, it didn't occur to me that I had an inherent passion in serving those who mostly lack access to health care and most stricken with diseases in the world. As an individual who came to the United States from a developing country, I am very aware and accustomed to the health conditions that numerous people face in Africa today. For that reason, when I made up my mind to follow a path towards a career in the health field I was very excited and lead-ins such as the opportunity to conduct Postoperative ileus research in the field of Gastroenterology will advance my education. With the valued understanding and experience that I have gained in the field of gastroenterology, I believe that this award will not only further aid me in the pursuit of my profession but it will also give me the opportunity to use my skills and abilities for a greater cause. Above all, the fellowship award of $2500 will aid me greatly in cover my short terms expenses, advance my knowledge in the field, hopefully open doors for me to further my research endeavors. "

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imgJason Rizvi
University of Chicago

"I am very grateful to have received the Stuart Brotman Student Research Fellowship Award. As a rising senior at the University of Notre Dame, I have accumulated a multitude of clinical experience in various areas, but the one field that I had yet to explore was laboratory research. With the help of Dr. Gail Hecht and her laboratory staff at the University of Illinois at Chicago, I am able to finally investigate the field of biological research. I will be applying to Medical Schools this summer and I am confident that my research experience will assist me in the decision of which specialty I choose for my career. My research project will focus on the relationship of enteropathogenic Escherichia coli, Salmonella, and Shigella with the host immune response. I am looking forward to beginning my project and am very appreciative of the consideration that the American Gastroenterological Association has given me. I have learned the basic laboratory skills in my biology, chemistry and organic chemistry labs and look forward to applying these skills as well as learning new ones during my time in Dr. Hecht's lab. This award will allow me to conduct my own project and expand on the knowledge that I have accumulated from biology and physiology courses. I am fortunate to have this tremendous opportunity. "

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imgMichele Saums
University of Pennsylvania

"I am honored to be a recipient of the AGA Stuart-Brotman Student Research Fellowship Award.

Beginning in September 2010, I have been involved in researching liver fibrosis and biomedical applications of polyelectrolyte multilayers with Dr. Rebecca Wells and Dr. Daeyeon Lee. In the past year I have learned a great deal.

Studying the beginning stages of liver fibrosis using these chemical engineering methods allows me to explore biology outside of the realm of neuroscience with the enhancement of ever-important engineering. Once I have completed my four years as an undergraduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, I will be graduating with a both broad and deep understanding of the physiological research sciences. I will be applying to medical school with excellent research programs. Hopefully this will lead me to my ultimate goal of becoming a successful and highly contributory physician-scientist.

This fellowship award helps me to achieve my academic and professional goals. Having the privilege to take credit for winning a grant like this will only improve and broaden my opportunities to obtain future research positions 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 and patience. I would also like to thank the AGA Research Foundation."

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imgLing Shen
Cornell University

"It is with great honor that I accept this generous Student Research Award from the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) Research Foundation. I appreciate the valuable opportunity which this reward provides me: to further my interests in the field of gastroenterology by pursuing a project which fascinates me. As a Cornell undergraduate studying the biological sciences, this chance to apply knowledge in a scientific setting and to conduct actual experimentation outside of the classroom is truly encouraging. I am a premedical student who looks to attend medical school upon graduation, and being given a reward of such prestige has increased my confidence and determination in being able to better understand the sciences critical to human health. I look forward to beginning my research this summer under the mentorships of Dr. Carol de la Motte PhD, Earl Poptic, PhD, and Dr. Ravi P. Kiran MD. I thank my mentors for their unwavering support in encouraging and facilitating my scientific studies."

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imgAlana Sherker
Queens University

"I am very honored to have received the 2011 AGA-Stuart Brotman Student Research Fellowship Award and would like to thank the AGA for the tremendous opportunity they have provided me. I am eager to work with Dr. Jordan Feld again on his project researching the antiviral activity of ?-defensin against hepatitis C virus (HCV). Dr. Feld has been an amazing mentor giving me the opportunity and guidance needed to become an independent researcher. As I am finishing up my last semester of undergraduate school at Queen's University, I have realized that I would like work towards acquiring a MD/PhD. The AGA has provided me with an opportunity to continue along the research I have become passionate about. HCV is a leading cause of liver disease worldwide. Chronic HCV infection may lead to cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer and is the dominant indication for liver transplantation. The best available treatment with peginterferon and ribavirin is costly, associated with significant adverse effects, and is frequently ineffective. Through my previous research with Dr. Feld we found that this small antimicrobial peptide, alpha-defensin, had an antiviral effect as well and we hope to elucidate the mechanism of action through further investigation.

With the help of the AGA Foundation, Dr. Feld and his team of researchers, I hope we will be able to provide insight on a new potential therapeutic option for HCV.

I would once again like to say thank you to the AGA for this award!"

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imgElizabeth Sikora
Washington University

"I am honored to receive the AGA Student Research Fellowship Award. Last year, I was able to work in Dr. Nicholas Davidson's lab, and I gained valuable, hands-on laboratory experience. I am excited to be able to continue my research in gastroenterology this summer. I will be able to get a head start in the research I want to pursue during my time at Georgetown over the next four years. This summer I will be researching hepatic lipid accumulation. Previous data from the Davidson lab have demonstrated important, interdependent roles for two genes, liver fatty acid binding protein (L-Fabp) and Mttp, in modulating hepatic steatosis and suggest a role for L-Fabp in metabolic targeting of FA in Mttp-dependent pathways of lipid export. My hypothesis is that metabolic trafficking and utilization of hepatic fatty acids (particularly for VLDL secretion) plays a central role in the prevention of steatosis. I look forward to learning more about the obesity epidemic through my research. Obesity is one of the pressing issues our nation faces, and I hope that I will be able to improve our current knowledge as well as improve the lives of people around me through my research in Dr. Davidson's lab. Again, thank you to the AGA foundation for providing me with this opportunity to learn and grow as a student and researcher."

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imgKara Stout
University of North Carolina

"I am very honored to have been chosen as a recipient for the AGA Foundation Student Research Fellowship Award. I already feel very privileged to be working for Dr. Susan Henning, who has stressed my success in research and has been an amazing mentor since I began working in her lab last spring. In the lab I have enjoyed interactions with doctoral students, surgery fellows, and GI fellows who have all been very patient and supportive of me, as I have shared both failure and success in learning techniques.

My project is based upon a previous publication by the Henning lab, where the surface marker, CD24, was used to identify intestinal stem cells (ISCs) and Paneth cells. As a step toward the therapeutic potential of ISCs, the goal of my project is to assess the viability of the whole epithelium verses the CD24+ fraction following storage of intestinal tissue at 4°C for 0, 12, 24, 36, and 48hr. The survival of the ISCs will be confirmed through the use of an Lgr5-EGFP mouse, and then crypts will be isolated from wild type mice and grown in vitro to confirm that surviving ISCs retain the ability to differentiate into all four lineages of the small intestinal epithelium. I hypothesize that the crypts will retain a high viability until at least the 24hr time point; furthermore, the ISCs will maintain a greater viability in comparison to the whole epithelium.

My research experience has already allowed me expand my knowledge of the complexities of biology best learned through direct interaction as compared to simply the memorization of a textbook. I believe this laboratory experience will be integral in broadening my understanding of biomedical research as I prepare to apply to medical school. I am very grateful to the AGA for providing such an incredible opportunity."

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imgYuqi Zhang
Johns Hopkins University

"It is such an honor to receive the AGA-Stuart Brotman Student Research Fellowship Award. I will be working on my project in the lab of Dr. Mark Donowitz everyday this summer. With the encouragement that AGA has given me, I feel more confident in seeing my research project to completion. This will be the first project that I have ever been involved in since the beginning, and one that requires me to take the most active participation in. From here, I will continue to pursue research in college and beyond, whether I decide to attend graduate or medical school.

With the support of this award I can fully devote my summer to my project, and continue to learn the process of research, from brainstorming to bench work. I will continue to sharpen my problem-solving skills as I tackle technical difficulties and learn from my more experienced mentors and colleagues. I am grateful that I have this opportunity to work with the knowledgeable research staff here at Hopkins. I look forward to learning theory from practical application as well as applying what I have learned in the classroom to my work in lab. In the process, I am excited to be able to contribute new knowledge to the field of gastroenterology and our growing understanding of the biological processes within the human body. I am starting to learn how rewarding research can really be, and I am so grateful that my efforts have been given this recognition from the AGA. I will always remember this award as one of the milestones of my research career, and will always be thankful for te guidance provided by my fellow lab members, and my mentors, Dr. Donowitz and Dr. Boyoung Cha, as well as the support provided by the AGA."

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