2016 Participants

FUTURE Class of 2016

2016 Participants

Briar Cliff University  |  Buena Vista University  |  Coe College  |  Grinnell College  |  University of Northern Iowa  |  Wartburg College    
Affiliate: St. Mary-of-the-Woods College

Varga LabBriar Cliff University

FUTURE in Biomedicine Fellow: Daniel Jung, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biology

Student Research Assistant: Kortney Johnson, Microbiology NSF REU

UI Faculty Host: Steven Varga, PhD, Professor of Microbiology

Project: Virus strain-dependent inflammasome activation in macrophages infected with respiratory syncytial virus infection


This was my first summer to participate in FUTURE program. This also was first time for Briar Cliff Universito participate. And I am very glad that I took part in this program. This program not only immersed me in the research during the summer, but also provided me with a breathtaking opportunity to connect with University of Iowa scientists. My host, Professor of Microbiology Steven Varga, was a phenomenal scientist and a great person to work with. He knows how to work with other fellow scientists and I am glad that I got to know him via this program. The scientific conversation with him is leading us to possible collaboration on a future project that interests both of us. 

The FUTURE program is unique since the FUTURE scholar could bring an assistant from his or her own home school. This helped me to gain experience mentoring a student in a research laboratory setting. I brought Kortney Johnson who also participated in the National Science Foundation-sponsored REU program in the Department of Microbiology. She is a freshman student and learned a lot about what to do and what not to do in the laboratory. More importantly, she learned what hypothesis-driven research is. She is now well trained in Steve Varga’s laboratory and will continue her role as a research assistant at Briar Cliff University. 

The other great aspects of this program are providing the opportunities to interact with directors and admission staffs from many graduate school programs at University of Iowa including graduate school, medical school including MSTP program, physician’s assistant, and physical therapy. As an academic advisor, it is important to know the requirements and processes of application. 

I also took advantage of being on campus by taking a summer course  organized by the Iowa Institute for Human Genetics. It was called Topics in Human Genetics. This 6-week seminar series from the experts at the University of Iowa gave me an overview of modern genetics research that applies to the courses that I teach at Briar Cliff University. 

This summer opened other possibilities in my future research. I learned how to manipulate a new biological system that could possibly be turned into further grant applications and publications, as I will continue my research collaboration with Professor Varga in the coming academic year.

Thank you very much to the FANTASTIC DUO, Dr. Madeline Shea and Sonya Housholder for this opportunity, putting programs together, being open to any possibilities and your passion for this program. 

Daniel Jung, Ph.D.
FUTURE in Biomedicine Fellow

I have known I wanted to go into research since I was in middle school. When I got the text message telling me we had been accepted into the FUTURE program, I felt on top of the world. While we do research back home, this was going to be the first taste of “big time” research I would have. I almost could not believe it, as Iowa is my dream graduate school.  I would get to spend all summer doing something that I loved as much as research. Talk and practice are two very different things, I have learned this summer. Putting the experiment to work compared to looking at protocols and talking about it has been very different in this laboratory compared to my home laboratory.

Being in Professor Varga’s laboratory this summer has been a priceless experience. I have not only learned that science does not always work how you want it to (a good lesson to learn this early in my career), but I have learned about different career paths and more about what to really expect in graduate school. 

Before this summer, I had the general idea of wanting to go into Genetics research after obtaining a Ph.D. degree. Now, after this summer, a spark has lit in my heart for industrial work, putting in work to get results to the people of the world in order to help them. I hope to return to the University of Iowa next year in the undergraduate summer research program in Genetics to get a feel for what my specific scientific passion is like in the laboratory environment. 

The FUTURE program has been a truly wonderful experience that I will always draw upon for the rest of my scientific and academic career. 

Kortney Johnson
Student Researcher

Pufall LabBuena Vista University

FUTURE in Biomedicine Fellow: Melanie Hauser, PhD, Associate Professor of Chemistry

Student Research Assistant: Cale Ewald

UI Faculty Host: Miles Pufall, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry

Project: The effect of auxilliary domains on transcription factor specificity and kinetics


As an organic chemist with no biology or biochemistry background, I knew that jumping into a biochemistry laboratory to do research for the summer would be a giant stretch outside my comfort zone, but I relished the opportunity for a challenge and was eager for a chance for one of my top undergraduates to see what a high quality research laboratory looked like. 

I was blessed with a host faculty member who was just as excited to have us as we were to come.  Our conversations started in February, while the snow was still flying, as he gave me plenty to read and got me up to speed on what was going on in his laboratory and the project that he had in mind for my student and me.  I am happy to say that, while this summer in the laboratory was challenging, it has jump-started my creativity and made my brain think in ways that I never thought possible. 

After attending panels and talks this summer, I feel like I have a much clearer understanding of the programs and opportunities offered by the Carver College of Medicine that I can take back and share with my students at Buena Vista University.   

I also am looking forward to sending my students to the University of Iowa in the future to collaborate on the project that I have been working on this summer and continuing to keep these strong connections alive.

Melanie Hauser, Ph.D.
FUTURE in Biomedicine Fellow

I came to the FUTURE program looking for an introduction to scientific research, but I left with so much more. This program has allowed me to develop as a scientist and scholar while also providing invaluable information and connections for my pursuit of further education after undergrad. I have most enjoyed forming new relationships with my labmates and learning about the proper techniques and methods of research. It has been an extremely rewarding opportunity that has allowed me to flourish as a scientist while researching a topic that will hopefully positively impact others in the future.

Cale Ewald
Student Researcher

Baker LabCoe College

FUTURE in Biomedicine Senior Fellow: Maria Dean, PhD, Professor of Chemistry

Student Research Assistant: Samantha Fitzgerald

UI Faculty Host: Sheila Baker, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry

 Project: How to build and move ion channels needed for vision


I am a 2011 alumnus of the FUTURE program, and have enthusiastically recommended the program to my colleagues without hesitation. I feel especially lucky to have worked with Assistant Professor Sheila Baker and her group. Returning to the FUTURE program as a Senior Fellow has been an exciting adventure: renewing relationships and forming new ones, learning new laboratory techniques, getting inspiration for my research and teaching, and learning about opportunities to share with colleagues and students. 

I appreciate the experiences I have had, especially with the exchange of ideas. This summer has been a wonderful learning experience, not only in the lab, but also for the variety of University of Iowa program information that I will bring back with me as a resource for my students. I am thankful that I was able to expand this experience to include a student to work with me in the laboratory. The FUTURE program was well organized, informative, and a fun, educational vehicle to share science in a special way. 

Maria Dean, Ph.D.
FUTURE in Biomedicine Senior Fellow

I immensely enjoyed my work with the FUTURE program. I joined the program to really get a feel for a full- time research experience and to see if that was something I wanted to incorporate into my pursuit of a medical degree. Along the way, I learned a great deal more. 

I established personal connections with University of Iowa faculty, professors, and students and also was able to use first-rate equipment that was not readily available at my home institution. One of the most impactful opportunities I had this summer was to meet with admission directors from the medical college to share some of my experiences and get their feedback on how to further set myself up for success for medical school in the future.

I am confident that the experiences from this summer will benefit me for the rest of my undergraduate years and beyond. 

Samantha Fitzgerald
Student Researcher

Rahmouni LabCoe College

FUTURE in Biomedicine Fellow: David Lo, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biology  

Student Research Assistant: Leah Brownlee

UI Faculty Host: Kamal Rahmouni, PhD, Professor of Pharmacology

Project: Neural control of metabolic and cardiovascular functions


Coming into the FUTURE program I was looking forward to being immersed in cutting-edge research, learning new technologies and broaden my training in the field of neuroscience, and forming meaningful connections with faculty, staff, and students at the University of Iowa. The program has exceeded all of my expectations, and will be an experience that I will cherish and proclaim for years to come.

Everyone that I encountered including, the administrators of the program, members of my host lab, and others in the department of pharmacology have been extremely gracious and helpful. These people created a positive atmosphere for me and my student that allowed us to flourish in our scientific endeavors. 

I am especially grateful to my host, Dr. Kamal Rahmouni, for his support, kindness, and willingness to collaborate beyond the summer. Not having time to do hands-on research during my academic year, it was invigorating for me to be able to contribute to Dr. Rahmouniʼs cutting-edge research on cardiovascular and metabolic regulation, and I am excited to continue the work that I have done this summer when I return to Coe College where I hope to take the new technologies and research ideas that I have been exposed to and transform them into formative research and educational experiences for students.

Participation in the FUTURE program yielded many positives for me and my student, Leah.  First, the FUTURE program served as an important training opportunity for Leah who is considering a future in graduate school. Leah had an immersive research experience as she had opportunities to evaluate scientific literature, design experiments, learn a handful of research techniques, disseminate scientific results, and learn how to navigate graduate school and job applications. The skills that Leah has gained will serve as a springboard for her to acquire future summer research opportunities and acceptance into competitive graduate programs. 

Another hugely beneficial component of our summer was attending scientific talks on a weekly basis. Due to the laboratoryʼs research focus, we attended talks in the Diabetes and Hypertension seminar series. The talks exposed us to really exciting research and alerted me to new technological developments, including the use to CRISPR CAS9 gene editing in mammalian cell lines, a technique I plan to incorporate into the Neurobiology laboratory that I teach at Coe College.

In closing, I found the FUTURE program to be overwhelmingly beneficial in multiple facets. The research experience was exhilarating and it provided my student and me with a unique opportunity to do high-end research. The scheduled programming provided great information on the professional programs offered at the University of Iowa including, medical school, graduate school, the genetic counseling program, physical therapy school, the physicianʼs assistant program, and the post-baccalaureate program. The newly formed connections with faculty at the University of Iowa and around the state have opened up many doors for me in the form of resources and ideas. The result of all of this was a truly remarkable experience that will make me a better teacher, advisor, and mentor. I would like to specially acknowledge Madeline Shea for selecting me to be a part of this program, Kamal Rahmouni for hosting me, and the donors for their generous funding that makes all of this possible. 

David Lo, Ph.D.
FUTURE in Biomedicine Fellow

I decided to pursue a position in the FUTURE program as an undergraduate because I am interested in graduate school and research, but I hadn't done research before. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in this program! Not only did it confirm my love of learning and discovery in the sciences, but it also provided a chance for me to test the waters of research. This summer, I have experienced the frustrations and the incredible moments of excitement that go with conducting research, and I can say with confidence that this is what I want to do.

A huge bonus of participating in the FUTURE program was that I got the chance to hear from a multitude of teachers and administrators about different graduate programs and degrees. Hearing from these speakers guided my planning away from some areas of study and opened my eyes to others that I hadn't considered before. Overall, this summer has been outstanding, and it is all thanks to the FUTURE program!

Leah Brownlee
Student Researcher

Schneiders LabGrinnell College

FUTURE in Biomedicine Senior Fellow: Heriberto Hernandez, PhD, Assistant Professor of Chemistry

UI Faculty Host: Michael Schnieders, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Biochemistry

Project: The Role of Thermodynamics in the Formulation of Pharmaceuticals 


This summer, I have enjoyed being a Senior FUTURE Fellow with my University of Iowa host and collaborator Assistant Professor Mike Schnieders.    Mike and I are working on a manuscript to submit to a peer-reviewed journal.  Having a structured weekly time to get together is helping us stay on track with that work.   

Participating in the FUTURE program has not only allowed me to strengthen my research ties to the University of Iowa, but also helped me as a faculty advisor of Grinnell students.  I have let them know about FUTURE-organized sessions where they can learn about medical and graduate training programs at the University of Iowa.  Some of them have driven to Iowa City to participate in these over the summer.

My ties to the University of Iowa are growing in other ways, too.  Last year, I brought two Grinnell students with me to work in the Schnieders laboratory on computational projects.  This year, one of those students (Julia Rumley) has taken a research position in the Carver College of Medicine to give her more experience in molecular and cellular experimental biology. This will help her decide her future direction for further education.  The connections that Julia developed while she was on campus with me last year led to her getting a paid opportunity to work in a UI laboratory for the coming year.  I look forward to staying in touch with her, and continuing my work with the Schnieders laboratory.

Heriberto Hernandez, Ph.D.
FUTURE in Biomedicine Senior Fellow

Wilson LabUniversity of Northern Iowa

FUTURE in Biomedicine Fellow: Nilda Rodriguez, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biology

UI Faculty Host: Mary Wilson, PhD, Professor of Internal Medicine

Project: Effects of testosterone in Leishmania chagasi infection  


As a new faculty member at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI), I utilized my training in Microbiology and Infectious Diseases to initiate a biomedical research program aligned with the healthcare related interests of many STEM students on campus.  To that end, I continued my work examining the immune response against the intracellular parasite Leishmania spp.  To make the laboratory work amenable to undergraduate students, I favored the use of a newly developed attenuated strain.   However, as the experimental results were analyzed it became evident that these attenuated organisms were increasingly deteriorating to a point that the experiments could not be completed. 

To continue our experimental work and obtain new, dependable data, we needed to try out experiments with various attenuated cultures as well as virulent parasites.  The best way to accomplish such an intense line of work in a limited amount of time was to be on-site in a laboratory with access to a vast repository of parasite lines.  Being in the laboratory of Professor of Internal Medicine Mary Wilson gave me access to the parasites needed to continue my research. 

Being part of the FUTURE in Biomedicine Program has allowed me to strengthen the nascent collaboration of my laboratory with the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.  From a practical perspective, having access to the ample research resources at the host laboratory and supporting research cores has catalyzed the generation of publishable results necessary for tenure at my institution.  Furthermore, midway through the tenure process, the timing of my participation has been crucial for my research program.  Equally important, has been the opportunity of having two UNI students involved in this work.  It has been rewarding having them experience firsthand the multidisciplinary and highly collaborative nature of biomedical research.  

Ultimately, the goal of our laboratory at UNI is to develop a rigorous biomedical research program focused on the immune response to infection.  I am confident that together with our colleagues, our students and the continuous collaboration between our institutions, we are making this happen.

Nilda Rodriguez, Ph.D.
FUTURE in Biomedicine Fellow

Klingelhutz LabUniversity of Northern Iowa

FUTURE in Biomedicine Fellow: Marek Sliwinski, PhD, Associate Professor of Biology

Student Research Assistant: Kwame Boakye-Turkson

UI Faculty Host: Al Klingelhutz, PhD, Professor of Microbiology

Project: A model of Ebola virus infection in human skin


Over the last two months I have worked in the Carver College of Medicine, Microbiology Department, studying a model of Ebola virus (EBOV) in human skin. This entailed infecting human skin punch biopsies with a recombinant strain of vesicular stomatitis virus that was genetically modified to express EBOV glycoprotein, as a means to mimic cellular entry of EBOV, and green fluorescence protein, to provide a cellular marker. Using this model of EBOV, my student and I monitored infection over time with fluorescence microscopy and found clusters of infected cells in both the dermal and epidermal layers of human skin. We then identified two cell types that were infected, differentiated keratinocytes and fibroblasts, by using immunohistochemistry and confocal microscopy.

The program afforded me the opportunity to meet new friends throughout the College of Medicine and to make use of the technical expertise available in the core facilities such as the Central Microscopy Research Facility.  The skills I have acquired will be valuable tools to pass onto my future research students and to my undergraduates in the instructional setting of the classroom.

The research collaborations that I started through this fellowship will continue to grow even after the program has ended. These connections will not only promote subsequent research that I conduct in my own lab, but, without a doubt, will provide my students with easier access to the facilities and expertise that the University of Iowa has to offer in their research pursuits. I anticipate my return as a senior fellow in future summers to continue the work we have started and to follow the results to new adventures.

Marek Sliwinski
FUTURE in Biomedicine Fellow

Participating in the FUTURE in Biomedicine program over the past two months has made a tremendous impact on my thinking of science as a tool for tackling issues within and outside the medical field. The hands-on experience has brought exceptional clarity to concepts developed in the classroom, while simultaneously serving as a stage to develop new skills and ideas that would certainly not be developed in class. 

Emanating from my daily interactions with researchers, I have obtained an amazing understanding of what I want my role to be in the scientific community going forward. Also, the training I have received on various instruments during this program provides invaluable knowledge that will assuredly be relied upon in the future.  I leave this program certainly enhanced in my critical thinking ability and without a scintilla of regret that I was a part of it.

Kwame Boakye-Turkson
Student Researcher

Tootle LabWartburg College

FUTURE in Biomedicine Fellow: Douglas Brusich, PhD, Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology

Student Research Assistant: Ashley Anderson

UI Facuty Host: Tina Tootle, PhD, Assistant Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology

Project: Uncovering the roles of nuclear actin in the Drosophila brain 


The FUTURE program has been a fantastic experience for me as both a teacher and a scholar. I started teaching at Wartburg College in the fall of 2016 immediately after graduating with my Ph.D. The challenges of preparing day-to-day for a full teaching load left little time to generate research projects appropriate for Wartburg undergraduates, train students to carry out technically sound experiments, or develop experiments for implementation into the classroom. My goals for the FUTURE program were to address each of these challenges. 

The first challenge, the generation of new research projects for undergraduate to perform, was largely due to a dramatic shift in research focus between graduate school and teaching at Wartburg College. My graduate work utilized techniques not feasible for use at Wartburg College and so I had little previous work to build upon when I started at Wartburg College. My work in the Tootle Lab has allowed me to develop new research agendas that are better suited for Wartburg College and address timely issues in science. The projects developed in the Tootle lab are geared toward understanding the cellular responses of neurons in response to epilepsy and traumatic brain injury. The preliminary results collected in the Tootle lab this summer constitute a major step forward in the development of my long-term research focus and have generated many testable hypotheses to be addressed back at Wartburg College. Also important is that the experiments this summer have generated data which will allow me to write a grant application in collaboration with Dr. Tootle, and an independent grant to the Iowa Academy of Sciences for continued research funding for the projects. 

My second challenge, the training of undergraduate to perform experiments was also something that was greatly facilitated by the FUTURE program. The FUTURE program allowed me to bring a talented Wartburg undergraduate with me who has done admirably in learning techniques and experimental approaches for the first time. This Wartburg student, Ashley Anderson, is now perfectly capable of independently carrying out traumatic brain injury, subcellular fractionation, and western blots on experimental samples to track changes in our protein of interest in response to injury. The mentoring experience has taught me how to work alongside an undergraduate from Wartburg to take a student naïve to the experimental approaches to independence for the execution of the experiment. Due to the FUTURE program, I now not only know better how to teach students to do challenging experiments, but have a student capable of independently working in my lab at Wartburg College, and helping to train the next undergraduates on the lab techniques. 

The FUTURE program has also facilitated the last challenge, development of experiments for the classroom setting. I will be teaching a cellular and molecular neuroscience course at Wartburg College this winter as an upper-level elective. Research questions we will address in this course will now draw heavily from the work done this summer due to a number of positive results obtained. Students enrolled in the course will now get to pursue novel, experiment-based science in the classroom as part of a larger research focus. 

In summary, the FUTURE program has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. The progress made during the FUTURE program has generated new scientific questions which will be addressed in my independent research lab, be implemented into the classroom so that a larger number of Wartburg students may gain from the experience had this summer, and form the foundation for both a collaborative grant with my host lab as well as an independent grant. I am very grateful for inclusion in the FUTURE program. 

Doug Brusich, Ph.D.
FUTURE in Biomedicine Fellow

I am very grateful to have been able to participate in the FUTURE program. Not only did I get an opportunity to pioneer an ongoing research project, but I also made connections with UI graduate students and graduate programs. The graduate students in my lab were incredibly helpful, understanding, and gave me great tips on how to improve my experiments. 

I was also fortunate enough to visit the Medicinal and Natural Products Chemistry graduate program during my stay, which gave me the opportunity to meet faculty and become familiar with what different graduate programs have to offer. 

Lastly, this program gave my professor and me a chance to cultivate ideas for a new neuroscience class at Wartburg. I would highly recommend the FUTURE program to any undergraduate who wants to make invaluable networking connections, while simultaneously gaining summer research experience.

Ashley Anderson
Student Researcher

Giaonnini-Weiss LabFUTURE Student Affiliates  

St. Mary-of-the-Woods College, Theresa L. Gioannini Women-in-Science Fellow

Student Research Assistant: Sydney Wilderman

UI Faculty Host: Jerrold Weiss, PhD, Professor of Internal Medicine and Microbiology

Project: Inflammation Research 


The FUTURE program has provided numerous experiences that have allowed me to grow exponentially as a young scientist. I am thankful such a unique program exists. University of Iowa is a highly collaborative university, making it a great setting to learn and progress in. Not only have I had access to the inner workings and life of a researcher, but also to the personal stories of the individuals I have met in the program. 

Our weekly Monday sessions opened my eyes to the many career paths available in the biomedical world. The people here are so open about their research and career experiences. This openness allows students, like myself, who are unsure of what career to go into, to see firsthand the many different paths one can take to be successful and help society as a whole. 

I also want to thank all those who helped make this program such a wonderful experience. I don’t think I could say thank you enough to those individuals who have put much of their time and energy into this phenomenal program! Last and most definitely not least, I want to say thank you to Madeline Shea. She has helped bring into existence the Theresa L. Gioannini Women-in-Science Fellowship by giving it a home in the FUTURE in BiomedicineSM Program. Thank you!\

Sydney Wilderman
Student Researcher

Support for the 2016 Program

  • CCOM Office of the Dean
  • CCOM Biochemistry Ruth Ann Henriksen Fund
  • Briar Cliff University
  • Buena Vista University
  • Coe College
  • Grinnell College
  • University of Northern Iowa
  • Wartburg College