2009 Participants

2009 FUTURE Class

Coe College  |  Drake University  |  Graceland University  |  Loras College  |  Luther College  |  Northwestern College  |  St. Ambrose University

Coe College

FUTURE in Biomedicine Fellow: Randy Christensen, PhD, assistant professor of biology, Coe College 

Student Research Assistant: Brandon Hoffer

UI Faculty Host:  Anton McCaffrey, PhD, Department of Internal Medicine

Fellow Project: Conducted research titled: "Gene expression in fibrotic mouse liver"

Student Project: Conducted research titled: "The role of microRNAs in the progression of liver fibrosis"


The University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine has become like a second home to me. I am now so familiar with the campus, the research buildings, the core facilities, and many individual researchers that I will not hesitate to use these resources in the future.

Now that I know the University of Iowa so well, I will more sincerely and enthusiastically advise my undergraduates to apply to UI medical/professional and graduate programs.

The FUTURE in Biomedicine℠ Program is like a two-month postdoctoral experience. The opportunity to do cutting-edge research with an established UI researcher has been exciting and reinvigorating!

Having 5 years of previous postdoctoral experience, it was amazing to see both some common and some new characteristics of productive research labs. I will be taking many improved research methodologies and ideologies back with me to teach to my undergraduate research students.

Professors at undergraduate institutions have such heavy teaching loads that it is very hard to keep up with new discoveries, even in their own fields! This experience was like a research sabbatical, teaching me new techniques, new discoveries, and even new fields of inquiry that I can now confidently introduce to my undergraduates.

Randy Christensen, PhD
FUTURE in Biomedicine

I was able to work with high-tech instruments and lab equipment that were never available to me at my college. Working next to graduate students, post-docs, and principal investigators, I was constantly learning new lab techniques that I can take with me as I continue my career path in medicine. Most importantly, the program allowed me to develop a greater appreciation and understanding of the role of research in science and medicine.

Brandon Hoffer
Undergraduate Researcher

Ongoing Connection:

Dr. Christensen's work with Assistant Professor Anton McCaffrey (Dept. of Internal Medicine) was published in July, 2010, in an article entitled "Correlation between microRNA expression levels and clinical parameters associated with chronic hepatitis C viral infection in humans" in the journal Laboratory Investigations. Dr. Christensen attends seminars and conferences offered by the UI CCOM, and brings students with him from Coe to learn about graduate and clinical training programs. Mr. Brandon Hoffer matriculated in the College of Medicine in August, 2010.

Drake University

FUTURE in Biomedicine Fellow: Jerry Honts, PhD, associate professor of biology, Drake University

UI Faculty Host: Madeline Shea, PhD, Department of Biochemistry

Fellow Project: Conducted research titled: "Ciliates, calcium, and the cytoskeleton: analysis of calcium-binding proteins in Paramecium and Tetrahymena"


My participation as a Faculty Fellow in the FUTURE in Biomedicine℠ program has made it possible to take my current research project to the next level. Access to state-of-the-art biophysical instrumentation and interactions with knowledgeable faculty and students have made this a productive experience, which I have every expectation will continue into the future.

Jerry Honts, PhD
FUTURE in Biomedicine

Ongoing Connection:

Dr. Honts continues to interact with the laboratory of Professor Madeline Shea (Dept. of Biochemistry). He uses the laboratory instruments to assist with specialized research projects, and has used the UI library system in support of his research, and a book he is writing entitled Protoplasm, describing the development of cell biology. He presented a talk in the 2010 FUTURE Symposium.

In February 2013, Dr. Honts received a Better Futures For Iowans award.  He and his student, Ryan Sterner, presented this research at the American Society for Cell Biology annual meeting in New Orleans in December, 2013.

Graceland University

FUTURE in Biomedicine Fellow: Dan Pratt, PhD, associate professor of science and mathematics, Graceland University

Student Research Assistant: Ryan Sheehy

UI Faculty Host:  Ray Hohl, MD, PhD, Department of Internal Medicine

Fellow Project: Conducted research titled: "Prenylation Inhibitors"

Student Project: Conducted research titled"The effects of a Novel Bisphosphonate, RB-2019, on Isoprenoid Biosynthesis in MD-MBA-231 Breast Cancer Cell Line" 


I have been amazed at how complicated cellular signaling is. It appears that we have only looked at the tip of the iceberg.

I have been inspired to look at undergraduate research at a whole different level. They are capable of far more than I have ever asked of them.

The research possibilities are endless. Anything is possible.

It has been 16 years since I have been actively involved in research. This summer has opened my eyes as to what my students and I can accomplish. Thank you for an incredible opportunity!

Dan Pratt, PhD
FUTURE in Biomedicine

I have a lot to say about the experience that I have had at the University of Iowa this summer. I am a chemistry and mathematics double major at Graceland University. I hadn't had much exposure to the biological sciences and I was considering graduate school in chemical engineering or chemistry. But after this summer, I have expanded my horizons into the biological sciences and I am now considering programs in the Biosciences program at the University of Iowa, specifically pharmacology or medicinal chemistry. If nothing else, this summer has confused my original plans and given me more options on what to study in graduate school. Options are good, and will allow me to make an educated decision when it comes to applying in the fall.

I have also worked in a great lab with helpful graduate students who are more than happy to talk with me and to answer my questions. I feel comfortable in a lab and have learned this summer that I would like to pursue research of some kind in graduate school.

Doors have opened for me in the biological sciences and I have a far greater respect for medicine and the work that goes into the development of new drugs and therapeutics. I've learned that I enjoy the thrill and potential that research brings. If I didn't have to go back to Graceland for my senior year, I would sign up today and join today if the application process was so simple. I plan to apply to the University of Iowa. Without the FUTURE in Biomedicine℠ program, I don't think I would have ever been exposed to the great community of Iowa City or the breadth of the biological science program at the U of I.

Thank you so much for this opportunity and for the work you put in to make this program possible.

Ryan Sheehy
Undergraduate Researcher

Ongoing Connection:

Dr. Pratt worked in the laboratory of Professor Ray Hohl (Depts. of Internal Medicine and Pharmacology). Dr. Pratt participated in the FUTURE Symposium in 2010, bringing two students (Alex Bagdy and Billy Witham) with him to present a poster based on their research at Graceland during the summer of 2010. Mr. Ryan Sheehy matriculated in the UI Biosciences Graduate Program in August, 2010. Several of Dr. Pratt's other students were inspired to conduct research during the summer of 2009. Ms. Koon Lam participated in the BSURF (Biochemistry Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship) program at the University of Iowa.

Loras College

FUTURE in Biomedicine Fellow: David Speckhard, PhD, professor of molecular and life science, Loras College

Student Research Assistant: Sujan Devbhandari

UI Faculty Host: Rob Piper, PhD, Department of Physiology and Biophysics

Fellow Project: Conducted research titled: "Exploring the role of Ubiquitin in cellular protein recycling"

Student Project: Conducted research titled: "Using a chimeric protein to study Ubiquitin dependent protein trafficking"


This experience was a mini-sabbatical for me. I was able to re-engage in research after several years away from active research while I served as division chair. I was able to learn new techniques, make new contacts and establish new collaborations. In addition, I was able to get firsthand experience about the programs at Iowa to help me provide more effective advising.

The hands-on experience in the lab will also help me improve my teaching. I can now speak knowledgably about techniques I had never seen before, and can explain how the basic science information in my classes applies to significant biomedical questions.

I think the strongest praise I can give this experience is that I hope several more of the Loras faculty, ideally all the science faculty, can participate in this program in the coming years.

I only hope our presence here carried some benefits to you as well. I appreciated the chance to tell our story to Iowa faculty, as well as learn the Iowa story.

David Speckhard, PhD
FUTURE in Biomedicine

This summer was literally life-changing. FUTURE in Biomedicine℠ has undoubetedly strengthened my determination to pursue a career in biomedical research. The experience this summer has made me realize that a little imagination can go a long way in science.

Sujan Devbhandari
Undergraduate Researcher

Ongoing Connection:

In the summer of 2009, Dr. Speckhard worked with Professor Robert Piper (Dept. of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics). In 2010, Dr. Speckhard initiated a new research project with Assistant Professor Ernesto Fuentes (Dept. of Biochemistry) to pursue his interest in learning biomolecular NMR. Dr. Speckhard hosted UI CCOM postdoctoral fellow Dr. Brooke Shields at Loras College for a seminar, giving her a chance to present her research findings and learn more about careers at liberal arts colleges.

Dr. Speckhard has begun using the DNA sequencing services of the UI CCOM DNA Core in work that grew out of his fellowship in the Piper laboratory. He may continue his work with Professor Piper who has a grant application pending that would benefit from an ongoing collaboration with an undergraduate institution. He is also applying for a sabbatical for summer 2011 and fall 2011 to continue working with Dr. Fuentes.

Mr. Sujan Devbhandari applied and was accepted in the BSURF (Biochemistry Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship) program. He opted to train at Sloan-Kettering in New York City in the summer of 2010, but plans to apply to UI graduate programs including the MSTP for admission in 2011.

Luther College

FUTURE in Biomedicine Fellow: Jodi Enos-Berlage, PhD, associate professor of biology, Luther College

Student Research Assistant: Aimee Villard

UI Faculty Host: Linda McCarter, PhD, Department of Microbiology

Project: Conducted research titled: "Investigating the role of calcium in bacteria using Vibrio parahaemolyticus"


We have had a fantastic time this summer in Iowa City!  My student Aimee Villard and I have made major progress on our project - we have learned new techniques, generated a large amount of data, and perhaps most importantly, interacted with and exchanged ideas with other scientists.  Immersing ourselves full time in research, and in a research-intensive environment, has been intellectually stimulating and frankly, an incredible amount of fun!

We will be heading back to Luther College with an attractive list of new undergraduate research projects, an outline of a joint paper that we hope to submit within the next year, and plans for a continued, long-term collaboration with our University of Iowa host Linda McCarter. In addition, we are returning with a surge of energy and motivation to accomplish these goals.  My student Aimee Villard will also complete the program with a newfound confidence and interest in becoming a scientist.  Finally, our experiences this summer have left us with very positive feelings about the University of Iowa College of Medicine and the Iowa City community.

The benefits of this program are clear.  Literally and figuratively, the FUTURE program extends the University of Iowa's research hands across the state, tapping into academic talent that stretches far beyond the Iowa City campus.  Likewise, faculty and students at smaller colleges in Iowa have increased awareness of, and access to, both physical and intellectual resources at the University of Iowa, including its attractiveness for graduate school.

Significantly, these benefits will not end with the summer program, but will extend into the years ahead.  The FUTURE program is truly a win-win for all parties involved, and we feel fortunate to have been a part of it.  Thanks!!

Jodi Enos-Berlage, PhD
FUTURE in Biomedicine

The FUTURE in Biomedicine℠ Program helped me tremendously in choosing a career path. Before this summer, I had not been able to fully immerse myself in lab work as a full time job.  Now I know that research makes me happy, and I could definitely do this for the rest of my life.

Aimee Villard
Undergraduate Researcher

Ongoing Connection:

Dr. Enos-Berlage continues to interact with the laboratory of Professor Linda McCarter, Microbiology. Undergraduates from Luther College and graduate students at the University of Iowa are collaborating on a research endeavor. They are preparing a joint manuscript and grant proposal. Elements of the research project developed during the summer of 2009 have also been incorporated into investigative laboratory coursework at Luther College. Ms. Aimee Villard matriculated at Mayo to pursue graduate work in the fall of 2010.

Northwestern College

FUTURE in Biomedicine Fellow. Karissa Carlson, PhD, assistant professor of chemistry, Northwestern College

Student Research Assistant: Alex Menning

UI Faculty Host: Marc Wold, PhD, Department of Biochemistry

Fellow Project: Conducted research titled: "Examining RPA Subunit Interactions with DNA"

Student Project: Conducted research titled: "Detecting RPA Subunit Interactions with DNA Substrates using Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET)"


The FUTURE in Biomedicine℠ program has enabled me to learne experimental techniques and try experiments that I will be incorporating into my laboratory courses.  In addition, this summer experience has given me the skills and motivation to begin implementing my own research projects at my institution.

Karissa Carlson, PhD
FUTURE in Biomedicine

It's been really incredible for me to see what can be done with all the resources at a larger university in terms of research.  Before this summer I really had no idea how the research process even worked, but now I've been able to take part in it and learn so much about how a lab works and how it collaborates both internally among its members, as well as with other laboratories in the department.

Alexander Menning
Undergraduate Researcher

Ongoing Connection:

Dr. Carlson continues to collaborate with the laboratory of Professor Marc Wold, Biochemistry. Mr. Alex Menning pursued a service mission in Africa in the summer of 2010, and plans to apply to the UI CCOM medical school for admission in 2011. In the 2009-10 academic year, Adam Verhoef joined the research project started by Dr. Carlson and Mr. Menning. Adam traveled with Dr. Carlson to Iowa City in June, 2010, to prepare protein samples in Dr. Wold's laboratory, and presented his research with Dr. Carlson in a poster at the FUTURE 2010 Symposium in July.

St. Ambrose University

FUTURE in Biomedicine Fellow: Shannon Mackey, PhD , assistant professor in biology, St. Ambrose University

UI Faculty Host: Lori Wallrath, PhD, Department of Biochemistry

Fellow Project: Conducted research titled "Gene‐silencing Phenomena in Drosophila"


I've enjoyed every single part of the FUTURE in Biomedicine℠ program.  I learned a lot from the meetings that we had with the admissions counselors.  Not being from Iowa, I had no idea what the expectations were for the programs at University of Iowa.  The FUTURE in Biomedicine℠ program provided me the opportunity to meet with admissions counselors from a variety of programs at University of Iowa to better understand the application process into their summer, graduate and medical programs.  This information will help me in my role as an academic advisor to better explain the expectations of these programs to undergraduates in order to help students be successful in their program of interest.

Shannon Mackey, PhD
FUTURE in Biomedicine

Ongoing Connection:

Dr. Mackey has continued her research with Professor Lori Wallrath, Biochemistry. In 2010, she worked throughout the summer in the Wallrath laboratory with Danielle Schlimmer, a St. Ambrose University student who was supported by the BSURF (Biochemistry Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship) program and presented a talk in the 2010 FUTURE Symposium.

Through her ongoing collaboration with Professor Wallrath, Dr. Mackey co-authored an article entitled "Nuclear organization, chromatin structure and gene silencing," which will be published in the Encyclopedia of Biological Chemistry in the coming year.

Support for the 2009 Program

  • CCOM Office of the Dean
  • Coe College
  • Drake University
  • Graceland University
  • Loras College
  • Luther College
  • Northwestern College
  • St. Ambrose University