2014 Participants

2014 FUTURE Class

Coe College  |  Drake University  |  Hawkeye Community College  |  Loras College  |  Mount Mercy University  |  Wartburg College

Coe College

FUTURE in Biomedicine Fellow:  Ugur Akgun, PhD, Assistant Professor of Physics

Student Research Assistants: Amy Dong and David Pritchett

UI Faculty Host: Dongxu Wang, PhD, Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology

Project:  Development of Proton Beam Imaging in Radiation Therapy of Cancer


My participation in the FUTURE in Biomedicine℠ program is a good example of the high level of interdisciplinary research in the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.  I am an experimental high-energy physicist, and my main research focus is to develop novel glass detectors for various applications such as particle physics, homeland security, and medical applications.  I had been a trainee and instructor at the University of Iowa for more than a decade before moving into my position at Coe College, and I already have ongoing collaborations with various faculties in the University of Iowa.  Participating in the FUTURE in Biomedicine℠ program gave me an amazing opportunity to work with the Department of Radiation Oncology in a concentrated way.

I had already been working on a novel detector design for proton imaging systems for more than a year, and I was eager to collaborate with Dr. Dongxu Wang from the Carver College of Medicine.  Our proton imaging detector design requires a high-density, scintillating glass, which is being made at state-of-the-art glass laboratories of the Coe College Physics Department.  Two students, Amy Dong and David Pritchett, and I have been simulating the detector performance with Geant4 software.  However, we needed the support of the expert to help up add 2D- and 3D-image reconstruction abilities to our detector model.

Dr. Wang is one of the leading specialists on proton imaging, and it is a great opportunity to be able to work with him.  This summer we have developed the image reconstruction scripts, and detector simulation model.  Dr. Wang's vision of switching from single proton tracking to proton bunch might well open new doors in our research.  We will continue to produce data.  This fall, we plan to submit an NIH grant application for building the prototype. 

The FUTURE in Biomedicine℠ program not only offers collaborative opportunities on scientific projects, but also creates great chances for Liberal Arts College students to breathe the Research University atmosphere.  Weekly talks and panels helped us to learn about the medical and biological science programs in the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.  This will surely allow me to advise my students better on their graduate or medical school applications.

I would also like to mention that the FUTURE in Biomedicine℠ program helped me to meet faculty from other Liberal Arts College science departments, and learn about their research interests, which might help me initiate new collaborations. 

Finally, I cannot thank enough Professor Madeline Shea for accommodating everything for my students, and me.  Her gracious support has helped us to improve our medical imaging knowledge tremendously.  I am very excited to continue my collaboration with Dr. Dongxu Wang in years to come.

Ugur Akgun, PhD
FUTURE in Biomedicine℠ Fellow

This was the first summer, as well as my first time, doing any work like research.  The whole process has had a lot of frustrating moments but those few moments where things work or I figure out what was wrong has made all the furstration worth it.  The feeling of having that light bulb in your head go off is amazing.  I would love to continue this project in the coming year (after I complete my sophomore courses) if I am given the opportunity.

Amy Dong
Undergraduate Researcher

The FUTURE in Biomedicine℠ program has been extremely helpful to me this summer in a couple of ways.  First off it has provided me with a job in my desired field as opposed to being a cart retriever at Walmart, or some other similar job.  It has shown me what it is like to be a scientific researcher and I am now considering it as a career path as I continue in my college education.  If I have the opportunity, I will likely accept a position doing this or a similar job next summer after my sophomore year.

David Pritchett
Undergraduate Researcher

Coe College

FUTURE in Biomedicine Fellow: Michael Leonardo, PhD, Associate Professor of Biology

Student Research Assistant: Chas Messer

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

Project:  Colonization strategies of the food-borne pathogen Vibrio parahaemolyticus


The FUTURE in Biomedicine℠ program has been all that I was hoping it would be.  It has allowed me to make important and useful connections with faculty and staff at the University of Iowa with my fellow educators from other small Iowa colleges.  We were able to discuss common issues at institutions such as ours, compare notes on various ideas and teaching pedagogy to improve our instructional skills.

The program has also allowed me to expand my scientific knowledge by delving into a field of microbiology with which I had limited experience previously.  The education of my student, Chas Messer, was enhanced by giving him an opportunity to practice the skills and techniques he used in his lab courses at Coe College, but at the pace he will face in a graduate laboratory.  The opportunities offered by this experience were beneficial to both of us, and have allowed us to broaden our knowledge base, network with other professionals, and create a new vision of opportunities for the future.

The program allowed me to make a wonderful connection with Professor of Microbiology Linda McCarter, PhD who studies the regulation of biofilms by the gastro-intestinal pathogen Vibrio parahaemolyticus.  Microorganisms from the genus Shewanella, which I study, have a set of genes that are homologous to those that play a role in regulating biofilm synthesis in some Vibrio species.  Based on this observation, our project has focused upon the possible interactions between the two genera.  The initial results from our summer of research show the potential for interspecies communication and we plan on continuing the project here at the University of Iowa and at Coe College in the future.

The impact of the FUTURE in Biomedicine℠ program is so much more than simple collaborations between the Fellows, their students and the host laboratories.  It provided an opportunity for us to return to a vigorous research-oriented situation similar to my days as a post-doctoral fellow.  The program has allowed me to refresh and expand my knowledge, techniques, and expertise and to reenergize my passion for doing scientific research.  This experience will enrich the curriculum at Coe College now - and into the future - by transfusing the experiences into the courses I teach.

In addition, Chas learned about the graduate and professional programs offered at the University of Iowa and potential career paths to consider for his future.  Chas will be an ambassador for the University of Iowa in that other Coe students who are interested in earning an advanced degree can discuss his experiences in the FUTURE program with him.

In summary, the FUTURE in Biomedicine℠ program allowed me to strengthen my scientific background, meet a great cohort of professional scientists from around the state, and provide an opportunity for my student to gain research experiences we typically cannot provide.  It has been a great experience for Chas and me.  We anticipate, and look forward to, a continued relationship with the University of Iowa into the future.

Mike Leonardo, PhD
FUTURE in Biomedicine℠ Fellow

The FUTURE in Biomedicine℠ program has been a wonderful experience.  It showed me what graduate school lab work is like as well as answered many questions about applying to graduate school and presenting information.  These answers have really influenced my decision about applying to grad school.  I would strongly recommend this program to anyone interested in grad school or research.

Over the course of the summer I learned many things about research, from getting a better idea of the mindset of a practicing scientist to finding out the best ways to answer certain questions experimentally.  It was great to learn all of the new protocols and to see some modifications to others.  By seeing these modifications, the ideas behind the procedures became more apparent and offered a paradigm shift in experimental design.  This program has been a great source of examples for lessons that I was taught in classes.  These examples drive home the importance of those lessons and open one's eyes to some of the practical issues of lab work.

Chas Messer
Undergraduate Researcher

Drake University

FUTURE in Biomedicine Senior Fellow: Jerry Honts, PhD, Associate Professor of Biology

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

Project:  Structural studies of Tetrahymena calcium-binding proteins


Participation in the FUTURE program has made it possible for me to take my research program to the next level.  Returning as a Senior Fellow this summer, I have been able to take advantage of an array of high-value scientific instrumentation, which is only available at a top-tier research university like the University of Iowa. I have used instruments in the Central Microscopy Research Facility, the CCOM Protein Crystallography Facility and the CCOM NMR Facility.  This access has enabled me to initiate structural studies on a calcium-binding protein that is central to my research interests.

By receiving invaluable practical training on instrumentation from the staff in these facilities, I will be better able to use these facilities over the next year as I pursue grant-funded research.  Having access to the specialized knowledge and instrumentation in the laboratory of my host (Madeline Shea) has likewise made it possible for me to make rapid progress toward my specific research goals.

I definitely recommend the FUTURE in Biomedicine program to friends and colleagues throughout the state.  Three other Drake faculty (Dao, Christensen and Kilpatrick) have participated in the program, and it seems likely that others might be able to do so in the future.

The FUTURE program has helped me and other participants from Drake in that i provides our administrators insight into what we actually do as scientists.  Deans and provosts at primarily undergraduate institutions, many of whom are trained in the humanities, do not have a good idea of what physical and intellectual resources it takes to effectively conduct a program of original research, especially in terms of the importance of collaboration and access to instrumentation.  Much of their scholarship is done on an individual basis.

The FUTURE program has been a benefit to the University of Iowa and Iowa's private colleges and universities in that it shows the kind of synergy that can be achieved in Iowa's higher education community, since the program brings together the strengths of public and private institutions.  Faculty research at private institutions is enhanced, which helps recruit students to outstanding post-baccalaureate opportunities in basic science and medical training programs at the University of Iowa.

The program has had a very positive impact on my own research. Based on previous studies conducted as part of the FUTURE program in 2009, I have been able to acquire several small grants, which will support and extend the project initiated this summer as a senior fellow.

I returned this year as a Senior Fellow because I am making a key transition in my research program, and this opportunity to come back with the support given to Senior Fellows could not have come at a better time.  Even though I have had serious training in structural biology during my post-doctoral fellowship and my first sabbatical leave, the methods for carrying out this kind of research continue to evolve.  Through my conversations with faculty and staff in the research facilities, I have a much better idea of the current state of the art, in terms of techniques and instrumentation for structural studies.  I would not have received this kind of "refresher course" had I not participated in the program this summer.

I had planned to bring a very talented Drake student with me, but at the last minute his summer plans had to be modified because of personal circumstances that kept him in Des Moines.  However, I have brought the student with me to Iowa City on several occasionals to attend symposia and use the Central Microscopy Facility.  He has had the chance to meet other Goldwater Scholars here in Iowa City, and I hope that he will spend a summer at the University of Iowa in a subsequent year. 

Jerry Honts, PhD
FUTURE in Biomedicine℠ Program Senior Fellow

Hawkeye Community College

FUTURE in Biomedicine Better Futures for Iowans Fellow: D. Randy Mercer, PhD, Instructor of Natural Sciences

UI Faculty Host: Wendy Maury, PhD, Professor of Microbiology

Project:  Prevalance of parasitic bacteria Wolbachia in endogenous mosquito species


It was a great opportunity to be a FUTURE Fellow during the summer of 2012.  I worked with an outstanding student from Hawkeye Community College and we were both graciously welcomed into the laboratory of Professor Wendy Maury in the Department of Microbiology.

Therefore, when I had the opportunity to return to the FUTURE in Biomedicine℠ program during 2014 as a Senior Fellow, I gratefully accepted.  In addition to the typically outstanding job that Prof. Madeline Shea and Ms. Sonya Housholder do for all Fellows, they went out of their way to include me in the FUTURE Program.

I was again welcomed into the Maury lab.  Besides the opportunity to move forward with my own research, I have enjoyed attending lab meetings and following the progress of graduate students.

I have received considerable encouragement and advice on moving my project forward, with access to facilities and literature resources that would not have been available otherwise. I have also enjoyed talking science and learning about the graduate student programs in the Carver College of Medicine.  I will continue to encourage our diverse student body to take advantage of opportunities at the University of Iowa.

I would encourage other community college instructors to participate in the FUTURE in Biomedicine℠ Research Program. Although research is not a primary responsibility for community college faculty, the opportunity to carry out research can be personally gratifying and professionally rewarding.

Students benefit from direct involvement in the FUTURE in Biomedicine℠ Program or from hearing about research outcomes and state-of-the-art advancements experienced by their isntructors. Likewise, information on career planning can be passed on to administrators and academic counselors.

I hope my colleagues will consider fulfilling their research "itch", establishing new professional relationships and collaborations, and benefiting their students and community colleges by participation in the FUTURE in Biomedicine℠ Program in coming years.

D. Randy Mercer, PhD
Better Futures for Iowans Fellow

​Loras College

FUTURE in Biomedicine Fellow: Adam Moser, PhD, Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Student Research Assistants: Jason Derby and Alexis Hanson

UI Facuty Host: Adrian Elock, PhD, Professor of Biochemistry

Project:  Computational studies of macromolecular interactions


Participating in the FUTURE in Biomedicine℠ program has been an outstanding experience.  The program combines so many opportunities: research collaboration, informaiton on University of Iowa programs, networking with other undergraduate professors, exposure to new techniques, access to powerful resources, and research experience for undergraduates.

Personally, it has been refreshing to be able to focus on research and make significant strides on a project this summer.  Working in Dr. Elcock's group has been an energizing experience and I have been able to support their work as well.  My students have had a special experience working alongside the graduate students and post-docs.  The collaboration forming between Dr. Elcock and myself is one that will persist after the program is over and I expect it to be very fruitful.

As a faculty member at a primarily undergraduate institution who sends many students to the University of Iowa for professional or graduate training, developing a strong relationship between our schools is important.  The FUTURE program has been supportive in every way.  I feel fortunate to have been involved and I strongly encourage others to participate.

Adam Moser, PhD
FUTURE in Biomedicine℠ Fellow

When I was invited to be a part of the FUTURE program by my professor Dr. Adam Moser, I had no idea what to expect.  Research was never on my radar and all I was interested in was becoming a good candidate for medical school.  As plans fell into place, the FUTURE program seemed to be the best of my options for the summer so I though I'd give it a try. Although I cannot say that I am set on research as a career, this summer experience has opened my eyes to so many new pathways in medicine.  I am now thinking about applying to the Medical Scientist Training Program and I have a well-developed research experience like this one where I can work all day on a project is something I would never had the chance to do at my school.

I have also learned so much through this program because of the weekly seminars that were provided for us.  I am so glad I learned so much information about medical school in general, and specifically learning about the Carver College of Medicine.  Becoming familiar with the environment and practices at the University of Iowa, I am now considering applying to medical school here.  This summer has given me a meaningful research experience that I could not have received through many other programs and it has made me even more excited and proactive about my future in medicine.

Alexis Hanson, PhD
Undergraduate Researcher

The FUTURE in Biomedicine℠ program has been an amazing and eye-opening experience in which I've benefited from in many ways.  The program allowed me to be fully immersed in a research environment for my very first research experience and get a feel for what full-time research can be like.  The lab resources we had access to were great, but even more importantly the UI Faculty Host and other researchers in the lab were welcoming, interactive, and friendly.  This gave me a great introduction to learning to talk about my research and listening to what others were doing research on.  I saw a much more collaborative environment than I envisioned research to be.

Outside the lab, the FUTURE Program seminars were invaluable and gave me access to University of Iowa professors, students and staff who most undergraduate students never get the chance to talk to.  I learned admissions information as well as student-descriptions of what life is like in programs from PA, PT, and MD all the way to PhD, and even something in between!  In fact, I found Iowa's MD-PhD program really interesting and will consider it in the future.

Overall, it has been an incredible summer and anyone that gets a chance to come and be part of the FUTURE in Biomedicine℠ program in the coming years should jump at the opportunity.  I had a great summer and look forward to continuing my research!

Jason Derby
Undergraduate Researcher

Mount Mercy University

FUTURE in Biomedicine Senior Fellow: Ryan Bezy, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biology

Student Research Assistant: David Stanek

UI Faculty Host: David Weiss, PhD, Associate Professor of Microbiology

Project:  Genetic analysis of bacterial cell division


For faculty at small universities and colleges around the state, I cannot recommend the FUTURE program more highly.  The FUTURE program represents a unique opportunity that brings both faculty and undergraduate students together to participate in an intensive research program that benefits both in many ways.

For students, this program greatly enhances their education by applying many of the things learned in the classroom in daily hands-on experiences.  This day in and day out work cannot be replicated in a classroom and is filled with challenges that will result in a mastery of topics that cannot be achieved otherwise.

For the faculty members, the chance to collaborate and work with faculty member at the University of Iowa who is an expert in their field comes with many learning experiences as well.  Faculty members are able to further their own knowledge by working in depth on their projects, with their collaborators, and by meeting and talking with other FUTURE Fellows or faculty members at the University of Iowa.  This knowledge goes beyond the research project they are involved with and into the expansion of their teaching and their ability to advise their students on how to prepare for professional programs after undergraduate school.

I have had the wonderful opportunity of participating int he FUTURE program for a second summer in a row.  This has allowed me to set up a productive collaboration with Dr. David Weiss, the results of which have been presented at professional meetings and will hopefully result in a publication in the near future.  These past two summers have been very exciting, challenging and have gone by only too fast, as this program allows for research at a pace that is often not possible at small undergraduate institutions.

Ryan Bezy, PhD
FUTURE in Biomedicine℠ Senior Fellow

It truly has been a grat summer and all of the hard work from everyone involved in the program is greatly appreciated.

The FUTURE in Biomedicine program this summer has been a wonderful experience.  It has allowed me to apply my classroom knowledge in a way that I never thought was possible.  Participating in a program like this, and working right next to graduate students and PhDs, has allowed me to experience a true understanding of what research is really like.

Weekly seminars have opened up my eyes to the many options available after undergraduate studies and have helped me narrow down what I would like to do with my future.  I've learned a lot both inside and outside of the research lab this summer and am truly grateful to Dr. Madeline Shea and everyone else involved with the program for providing me this wonderful opportunity.

David Stanek
Undergraduate Researcher

Wartburg College

FUTURE in Biomedicine Senior Fellow: Shawn Ellerbroek, PhD, Otto Endowed Professor in Chemistry and Associate Professor of Chemistry

UI Faculty Host: Kris DeMali, PhD, Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Dermatology

Project: Vinculin-dependent actin branching and bundling coordinate cell adhesion and migration


The experience of returning as a Senior Fellow in the FUTURE in Biomedicine℠ program has provided an opportunity to catch-up on new biochemical technique and ideas, which immediately translates into a better education for my students. 

I am on a four-to-five year publication cycle out of my college, so this summer experience also offered me a chance to publish more.  My host and I have already published one co-authored manuscript, and submitted a second one this ummer.  This satisfaction is important to me as a scientist.  I have also played a role as a mentor to a postdoctoral research scientist in my host lab who would like to pursue a career path similar to mine.

The FUTURE in Biomedicine℠ program also provides visible evidence of the collegiality between the University of Iowa and regional liberal arts colleges, such as my own.  Being able to sit down and meet with directors of post-grad programs popular with my undergraduates has shed light on the positives these programs offer and the nature of their applicaton processes.  I came away from these meetings more knowledgeable about why we should recommend the University of Iowa to our most well trained and ambitious students.  Some of my former students have entered UI Ph.D. programs or pursued M.D. training in Iowa City.  But, information gleaned at the weekly sessions and individual meetings will help me do a better job of preparing my students for matriculation and subsequent success.

Having the FUTURE program offer Senior fellowships fosters long-term collaborative success between the fellow and his or her mentor.  I cam back as a Senior Fellow because doing so would strengthen my personal relationship with my host, Dr. Kris DeMali, and the additional time spent in her lab offered the opportunity to conclude our original project while starting a new investigation.

I would absolutely recommend the FUTURE in Biomedicine℠ program to a friend, and I have already.

Shawn Ellerbroek, PhD
FUTURE in Biomedicine℠ Senior Fellow

​Wartburg College

FUTURE in Biomedicine Senior Fellow: Stephanie Toering Peters, PhD, Associate Professor of Biology

Student Research Assistant:  Jessa Bidwell

UI Facuty Host: Andy Frank, PhD, Assistant Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology

Project: Roles for diacylglyerol kinase in synapse development and function


This year, I returned to Iowa as a FUTURE Senior Fellow.  After my initial FUTURE Fellowship in 2011, Andy Frank and I have continued to collaborate on our project looking at the role of Dgk in the structure and function of the neuromuscular junction (NMJ) in Drosophila.  Undergraduate students at Wartburg have participated in this research; Islam Qadous cmpleted locomotion assays with multiple strains of Dgk flies, and my Developmental Biology course completed an RT-PCR experiment to test the expression levels of Dgk in these animals.

As our work progressed, it became clear that the project required resources at Iowa to move forward.  Thus, I returned this summer with two very specific goals:  to examine the structure of the NMJ in Dgk-deficient flies using confocal microscopy and to extend the results from my Developmental Biology lab to determine the expression level of the Dgk gene in these flies.  These projects required the use of equipment (the Zeiss 700 confocal microscope), software (Imaris to analyze images), and expertise (the RT-qPCR knowledge of Doug Brusich, one of Andy's graduate students) that I do not have access to at Wartburg College.

This summer's work has been incredibly successful.  My student, Jessa Bidwell, and I have generated a huge amount of data in a very short period of time.  We could not have done this without the resources here at Iowa, and the support of the FUTURE program.  I am most grateful for the fact that the FUTURE program supports housing for me and my family.  I do not think I would chose to come to work at Iowa full time if I could not bring my family with me.  Additionally, I appreciate the opportunity to bring a student of my choosing to campus with me; this both increases the amount of work we can get done and helps me fulfill my primary role as an educator at an undergraduate institution.

We believe the results we have generated this summer are sufficient to begin working on a paper for publication.  Publication of our work will obviously benefit both Andy and I in our careers, and it is entirely due to the FUTURE program that this body of work exists.  I anticipate that Andy and I will continue to collaborate, and I hope our future collaboration will be as fruitful as what has come so far.

Stephanie Toering Peters, PhD
FUTURE in Biomedicine℠ Senior Fellow

The FUTURE program at the University of Iowa this summer has been an invaluabel opportunity for me.  It has opened the doors to new opportunities by allowing me to network with faculty, staff, and the graduate students of the university as well as undergraduate students from other schools who participated in FUTURE.  This experience has challenged me to think about career paths that I had previously disregarded and it has taught me that there is a hidden side of science, the side that is behind the doors of the lab and in the hands of normal people who simply have a passion for science.

As I have gone through the summer in the Frank lab, the FUTURE program has helped me decide my career path and given me much respect for other science careers.  Although I am more suited to a clinical career in healthcare, I have a healthy respect for the time, effort, and money that is required for research.

Science is not perfect, and working in the lab has shown me that there is more than one way to do things and that messing up is part of the way we learn and grow.  Working on my project with my professor and watching the graduate students work on theirs has taught me that you must have patience, be willing to think about creative ways to solve problems, and how necessary it is to ask questions of your peers and mentors in order to succeed.  The researchers in my lab were more than willing to help each other with new questions and solutions to problems; without them, my professor and I would not have been able to get as far as our project as we did.

Without this program, I would have never met some of the awesome people from other liberal arts colleges around the state as well as University of Iowa faculty.  The weekly seminars that this program offers have benefited me immensely by giving me valuabel information required for my post-graduate plans.  The FUTURE program has given me a taste of the real-world research experience, helped me finally decide what I want to do for a career, and taught me many invaluable lessons and skills. I would definitely recommend this program to others who want to gain experience and learn more about science and post-graduate opportunities.

Jessa Bidwell
Undergraduate Researcher

Support for 2014 Program

  •   CCOM Office of the Dean
  •   UI Office of the Provost 
  •   Coe College
  •   Drake University
  •   Loras College 
  •   Mount Mercy University
  •   Wartburg College