2023 Participants

2023 Participants - Copy of Program Brochure

Buena Vista | Coe College | Dordt University | Grinnell College
University of Northern Iowa | Waldorf University


Buena Vista University

FUTURE in BiomedicineSM Senior Fellow: Brittney Dinkel, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biology

Student Research Assistants: Courtney Johnson, Emily Nothwher, Madelyn Bigalke, Keirsten Trayte

UI Faculty Collaborator: David Weiss, PhD, Microbiology and Immunology


“I have participated in the FUTURE Program since 2019.  The last 3 years, I have been working on a project looking at antibiotic resistance against cefsulodin with Dr. David Weiss.  This program and project has had an immense impact on the students at BVU and my teaching.  Through the program, I have worked with 9 students on summer research projects.  The students have had the opportunity to get hands-on experience in the lab, learn more about various careers in science, and have presented off campus at the University of Iowa poster sessions and at national conferences. 

I have also benefited from the program with my teaching.  As an immunologist, I had very little training in bacteriology but was expected to teach microbiology when I started at BVU.  The summers with the programs have helped me develop skills and the background to enhance the microbiology course.  I have generated 6 new labs for the microbiology course and added new lectures about antibiotics and bacterial genetics.  This program has helped me in the process towards tenure as well.  The mentoring and professional development opportunities have impressed my dean and administration.  I have gained connections with students, confidence in a new field of study, and enhanced my teaching thanks to the FUTURE Program.”

~ Brittney Dinkel, PhD ~

Coe College

FUTURE in BiomedicineSM Senior Fellow: Randy Christensen, PhD, Associate Professor of Biology

UI Faculty Collaborator: Lori Wallrath, PhD, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology


“Thanks to the FUTURE in Biomedicine program, I have become a part of the fabulous research arm of the University of Iowa.  This collaboration has had many benefits, despite being a short summer program.

This year we produced data on disease mechanisms in muscular dystrophy that will soon be published, and in a previous year we published a paper on microRNAs in liver fibrosis.  The two undergraduate students from Coe that joined me in the FUTURE program have both come back to University of Iowa; one as a medical student at Carver, and the other as a post-baccalaureate lab technician.

In addition, my familiarity with the Univ. of Iowa has inspired me to better advise many undergraduates who have applied to the graduate and professional programs, such that they are successfully pursuing higher degrees here.

Finally, through the FUTURE program I have become a member of a larger team of scientist-educators, where I am doing ongoing research -- along with other faculty from smaller institutions -- as we work together to support the research aims of the fantastic UI scientists.  Sabbatical, summer, and classroom research are now all being performed by this team to further our biomedical and educational goals.  The FUTURE in Biomedicine program is a boon to all Iowa scientists!”

~ Randy Christensen, PhD ~

Dordt University

FUTURE in BiomedicineSM Visiting Senior Fellow: Manuela A.A. Ayee-Leong, PhD, Associate Professor of Chemistry & Engineering

UI Faculty Collaborator: Robert Piper, PhD, Associate Dean of Research, Professor of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics


“My students and I have enjoyed participating in the FUTURE in Biomedicine Program remotely and in person in prior years. I appreciate the ongoing electronic access to most of the journal subscriptions of the University of Iowa. 

This summer, my academic obligations kept me at Dordt University. However, having many weekly FUTURE events offered in a Zoom format let me tune in and stay connected with the faculty and staff who lead training programs (MD, PA, PT, PhD, MSTP) in the Carver College of Medicine.  Some of the students who have participated in FUTURE with me will apply to these programs.

I also benefited from hearing about what my scientist-educator colleagues around the state are doing.  I am in Engineering and some of them are in Physics as well as Chemistry and Biology. All of us are connected by our desire to pursue novel independent research at our colleges. I am involved with a recently funded $20M NSF EPSCoR award.  I am on a team with investigators from Iowa State, University of Iowa, UNI, and Central College.  I am excited about this for many reasons but especially because part of my role on this project, besides simulation research, is to lead Dordt in creating a networked summer undergraduate research program that connects faculty and students from PUIs across Iowa. I love that the FUTURE program has already created such a wonderful network and inspires me to work on this one that focuses on supporting advanced biomanufacturing in Iowa."

~ Manuela A.A. Ayee-Leong ~


FUTURE in BiomedicineSM First Year Fellow: Tony Jelsma, PhD, Associate Professor of Chemistry

Student Research Assistant: Hannah Landman

UI Faculty Collaborator: Eric Van Otterloo, PhD, Anatomy and Cell Biology


"My student and I thoroughly enjoyed our time in the FUTURE in Biomedicine program.  As a professor at a small undergraduate institution, I find it challenging to gain research experiences and to be able to use cutting edge laboratory techniques. The FUTURE in Biomedicine program amply provided both. 

We are now looking into ways to continue this collaboration at our institution and involve more students in this project.  In addition, this experience is invaluable for the students, allowing them to become comfortable in the lab. This dedicated research time could be life-changing for them as they consider their career goals."

~Tony Jelsma, PhD ~

"The FUTURE in Biomedicine program provides a unique opportunity for undergraduate students to venture into scientific research. I truly appreciated the freedom we had to develop a short project for the summer and the support to carry it out in such a short amount of time. This program, from speakers to daily work, has been a valuable learning experience that has helped me develop and refine critical thinking, lab, and interpersonal skills."

~ Hannah Landman ~


Grinnell College

FUTURE in BiomedicineSM Visiting Senior Fellow: Keisuke Hasegawa, PhD, Associate Professor of Physics

Student Research Assistant: Hannah Landman

UI Faculty Collaborator: Eric Van Otterloo, PhD, Anatomy and Cell Biology


“I would like to thank the Carver College of Medicine for giving me the opportunity to return to the FUTURE in Biomedicine Program as a Visiting Senior Fellow. This was my fourth summer participating in the program.  Over the years, I learn different techniques in biochemistry in the laboratory of my UI host, Dr. Maria Spies, some of which I incorporated into my own research at Grinnell College.   The program also helped me to access the UI Central Microscopy Research Facility and collect data for an NSF MRI grant proposal.

Although I was not able to conduct research at the university this summer because of my schedule, I have benefitted from participating in the virtual programming. As an academic advisor and a member of the health professions committee at Grinnell, the information I learned about medical and graduate training, biomedical research and career options at the university would allow me to provide better advice to students. Thank you for the great opportunity.”

~ Keisuke Hasegawa, PhD ~


University of Northern Iowa

FUTURE in BiomedicineSM First Year Fellow: Terence Moriarty, PhD, Assistant Professor, Kinesiology and Physical Education

Student Research Assistants: Clare Christensen & Holden Sevening

UI Faculty Collaborator: Nandakumar Narayanan, MD, PhD, Neurology 


2023 FUTURE in Biomedicine Collaborators - Story by Celine Robins

"The past summer has been a remarkable journey for me, a transformative chapter of my academic and personal life. Firstly, I would like to thank the Carver College of Medicine for providing me with an opportunity to participate in the FUTURE in Biomedicine program. Fortunately, two undergraduate students were also able to join me in Iowa City to actively participate in the entire experience.

Our project focused on exploring the electrical and blood flow activity in response to a working memory task in healthy individuals. We succeeded in collecting and analyzing data over the summer and we aim to build upon this collaboration in a Parkinson’s Disease population in the very near future. In addition, I have gained crucial skills that go beyond the lab environment. I learned to think critically, work collaboratively, communicate effectively, and handle setbacks with resilience. These skills, I am sure, will serve me in good stead as I move back to the classroom for another semester teaching at UNI.

Overall, the experience was phenomenal and one which I would recommend to others. It was amazing to see and be involved in cutting edge science taking place day in day out and this gave me a real desire to continue the work we do to see an impact in clinical populations. Finally, I really appreciated the help we received from the host lab (Narayanan lab). The opportunity to work alongside brilliant researchers and humans (Dr. Narayanan, Dr. Rachel Cole, Brooke Yeager, Arturo Espinoza) in a diversified and inclusive lab experience who shared the same passion was inspiring. Their guidance and encouragement helped us navigate through the complexities of the research, fueling our intellectual curiosity and motivating us to dig deeper.

As the summer draws to a close, I can confidently say that this fellowship has had a significant impact on me. I really came to terms with, and became grateful for, the fact that it’s a great privilege to do science. I woke up every day super excited to do science in the Narayanan lab. I feel as though our pursuit of answers to the questions we ask regarding normal and abnormal brain function can be answered through our work as innovative researchers in Neuroscience. I became even more appreciative of how we get to be curious in doing what’s never been done before, to discover and to ask big questions that might help someone in the real world down the line. Most importantly, we had fun in doing all of this."

~ Terence Moriarty, PhD ~

"Before this opportunity with the FUTURE in Biomedicine Program, I had not been a part of any undergraduate research or understood the "behind the scenes" activities of a scientist. I am very thankful that I had the chance to experience that world this summer and really dive into neuroscience! The entirety of the summer was a huge learning curve for me and gave me a new profound respect for research. The fNIRS and EEG technology that we applied to our research on brain function allowed me to have exciting hands-on experience throughout our pilot study. I am very thankful to the Department of Neurology and Dr. Narayanan for their great help and hospitality while at the lab. I am grateful for the unique experience and opportunity I had through the FUTURE program that I will use towards my future career!" 

~ Clare Christensen ~

"The FUTURE in Biomedicine program has been a great experience for me. During my time I was able to experience the process of building a research design and executing the study, as well as drawing conclusions from the analyzed results. Along with this, I was able to build new relationships with members of the University of Iowa, as well as strengthening previous ones with members of UNI. Additionally, I had a great opportunity to learn more about future graduate programs and how to best prepare for them." 

~ Holden Sevening ~


FUTURE in BiomedicineSM Visiting Senior Fellow: Ali Tabei, PhD, Associate Professor of Physics

Student Research Assistant: Sabryn Labenz

UI Faculty Collaborator: Maria Spies, PhD, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology


"The FUTURE Program has been pivotal in facilitating the fruitful collaboration I have developed between my physics laboratory with the biophysical chemistry lab of Dr. Maria Spies to probe mechanisms of DNA repair.

I would like to thank Dr. Spies and her lab for hosting my student Sabryn this summer and providing her the opportunity to participate in wet lab experiments to complement the computational modeling, simulations and data analysis methods that we have been developing here at UNI. This opportunity will give us preliminary experimental results for our next external grant proposal.  It has helped Sabryn broaden her skill set, and explore new directions for future graduate training.

Over the years of my collaboration with Dr. Spies, we have published peer-reviewed scientific articles, presented our work at national conferences, and co-written grant applications that have supported students working in our labs together.  I look forward to continuing as a Senior Fellow in the FUTURE program."

~ Ali Tabei, PhD ~

"The FUTURE in Biomedicine program at the University of Iowa has given me the opportunity to grow, not only as a researcher, but as a person. Throughout my time in Dr. Maria Spies lab, I learned various experimental techniques, but also gained confidence in how to present research. Over the course of the summer, the various networking opportunities provided by our weekly zooms were greatly appreciated. As I plan to apply to graduate schools this fall, I will be sure to keep Iowa in mind!"

~ Sabryn Labenz ~


FUTURE in BiomedicineSM Senior Fellow: Nilda Rodriguez, PhD, Associate Professor of Biology

Student Research Assistant: Hunter Mennenga & Grace Schaefer

UI Faculty Collaborator: Mary Wilson, PhD, Internal Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology


"At the University of Northern Iowa (UNI), numerous students seek out biomedical research experiences in preparation for the next step in their careers. However, providing students with these experiences is challenging at a teaching institution. Our collaborations through the FUTURE in Biomedicine Program have allowed us to keep a viable and productive biomedical research program in which to involve UNI students.

Being current in techniques and contents in biomedicine has also been invaluable to provide engaging and relevant instruction in the classroom and teaching labs. In addition, it allows me to provide better advice to students interested in pursuing graduate and professional studies, many of whom continue their education at the University of Iowa."

~ Nilda Rodriguez, PhD ~


Waldorf University

FUTURE in BiomedicineSM Visiting Senior Fellow: Gary Coombs, PhD, Associate Professor of Biology

UI Faculty Collaborator: Lori Wallrath, PhD, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology


“I have participated in the FUTURE in Biomedicine program for multiple years.  This summer, I worked in my host lab in Iowa City by appreciated the flexibility to participate mostly remotely, continuing research related to Dr. Wallrath’s modeling of Emery Dreifuss muscular dystrophy in fruit flies.

This has become a long-term collaboration in which I am conducting various pharmacological studies of possible treatments to ameliorate symptoms. To continue studies of one particular drug candidate, I obtained a driver strain last year from the Wallrath lab that allows transgene expression in the adult heart. With this strain, several of my students and I have conducted survival experiments with Kaplan Meier plotting. This has been educational, and our most recent experiment with zoledronic acid shows an apparent survival benefit.

During the past school year, I worked with two Waldorf students to develop a way to biophysically interrogate muscle properties in fruit fly larvae using atomic force microscopy (AFM). In an initial experiment, we saw strongly increased muscle stiffness in larval muscle tissue expressing R564P mutant Lamin C compared to muscle tissue expressing transgenic wild type Lamin C. The difference in stiffness only occurred in contracting muscle. We also observed amelioration of this increased stiffness with pirfenidone (a TGFb inhibitor) treatment. Together with Waldorf’s physics professor, I am now working on a grant to hopefully obtain an AFM for students to use at Waldorf.

This would allow us to characterize muscle properties in flies expressing different lamin C mutations (the Wallrath lab currently has a collection of about 30 different mutants expressing strains). It would also allow us to assess the effects of around 40 candidate drugs identified in a recent library screen in the Wallrath lab. These two projects represent opportunities for many students to obtain training on a complex research instrument that we expect will catch the eyes of potential employers and graduate school admissions committees. During one of my visits to the Wallrath lab this summer, we were able to discuss aims and plans for writing the grant to obtain an AFM instrument.

 On another of my visits to UI this summer, I received training in techniques that I intend to incorporate into classes this fall. In one freshman biology lab we have long attempted to prepare and visualize polytene chromosomes without success. To improve our likelihood of success, I learned to cleanly dissect out (and visually recognize) the larval salivary glands, and criteria for selecting larvae with the most amplified chromosomes. I also obtained protocols and got training and hands-on practice dissecting out eye/antenna and wing imaginal discs and obtained a small amount of antibody to an active caspase, to allow staining of imaginal discs to visualize patterns of apoptosis. This will be incorporated into my developmental biology course. My students will be able to test effects of environmental potential teratogens on apoptotic patterns in these developmentally key tissues.  These experiences fulfill the missions of the FUTURE program to foster collaborations and the transfer of information and techniques throughout the state of Iowa.”

~ Gary Coombs, PhD ~