Dare to Discover banner campaign recognizes two of our outstanding students

Mengya and Sheps are one of 82 outstanding University of Iowa undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers and scholars in the Dare to Discover banner campaign are making waves in fields ranging from astronomy to medicine, public health, education and art.

“These exemplary students and postdocs, who were nominated by their faculty mentors and colleagues, show incredible commitment to their pursuit of new knowledge that advances our understanding of ourselves and the world around us,” said Marty Scholtz, vice president for research. “They are shining examples of what is possible when you pair research and creative activities with an undergraduate, graduate, or professional education.”

Mengya Wang, PhD student, Neuroscience and Pharmacology
Uncovers the root of migraine


Hometown: Xuzhou, China

Faculty mentor/advisor: Dr. Andrew Russo, PhD, Professor Molecular Physiology and Biophysics

What is your degree program and expected graduate date? I am currently pursuing a PhD in Neuroscience and Pharmacology and I will graduate in Dec. 2021.

Please describe your research: My research focuses on the mechanisms underlying how and where calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), a migraine mediator, works. Specifically, I am investigating the role of cerebellar CGRP in migraine-like symptoms.

In simple terms, why does this research matter? Migraine is ranked as the second highest cause of disability worldwide. Over the past two decades, calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) has moved to the forefront as an important neuropeptide participating in migraine pathophysiology. Revealing the mechanisms underlying how and where CGRP works will shed light on the development of new therapeutics to migraine.

How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? I started working in research as soon as I joined the Neuroscience and Pharmacology program.

How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? Involvement in research has taught me how to think independently and critically, how to collaborate with other researchers, and improved my communication skills. Research at Iowa has impacted my direction of future career and my general attitude towards life.

What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? My career goal is to be a research scientist in neuroscience, contributing towards the treatment for people suffering from neurological disorders.

Does your research have connections to or implications for COVID-19? Please explain.  A CGRP receptor antagonist, a potential migraine treatment in clinical trials, is currently undergoing a clinical trial as a potential treatment for COVID-19-related lung inflammation. It is currently unknow whether it can help with pulmonary complication and possibly even with headaches, but we are hopeful that CGRP-based drugs may help some COVID-19 patients.

Sheps King-McAlpin, MD/PhD student, Molecular Medicine | Medical Scientist Training Program
Explores insulin signaling

Sheps is not afraid to tackle challenging projects and attacks them with persistence and dedication. His steadfast approach to science will serve him well in his future endeavors.”

Hometown: Eatonton, GA

Faculty mentor/advisor: Dr. Matthew Potthoff

What is your degree program and expected graduate date? MD/PhD, May 2023

Please describe your research: My lab studies a liver-derived hormone called fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21). FGF21 helps insulin transport sugar from the bloodstream into the tissues of rodents and primates. I want to understand how FGF21 accomplishes this at a cellular level.

In simple terms, why does this research matter?  Human patients with type II diabetes have insulin resistance, a condition where insulin is unable to effectively transport sugar into their tissues. FGF21 is able to bypass insulin resistance and restore insulin’s function in diabetic animals. I want to identify FGF21’s mechanism of improving insulin sensitivity in order develop new therapies for diabetic patients.

How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? Immediately

How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? My research experience at University of Iowa has improved my critical thinking and problem-solving skills. I now have a better understanding of biology at the physiological, cellular, and molecular levels. These skills helped me throughout my coursework and clinical rotations completed thus far. Research has also taught me to be more patient, perseverant, and disciplined. These characteristics not only help me achieve my career goals, but also greatly contribute to my personal development in general.

What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? I plan to complete a physician-scientist training program (PSTP) in psychiatry after graduation.


Sunday, January 30, 2022