After a competitive national selection process, two University of Cincinnati students have been chosen to attend the 64th annual Nobel Laureate meeting in Lindau, Germany.
During the meeting, held June 29-July 4, students Kyle McCracken and Amy Engevik will be among 600 young researchers in attendance, all able to meet and learn from Nobel laureates.
McCracken, a sixth- year student in the Medical Scientist Training Program doing his graduate work in the molecular and developmental biology program, and Engevik, fourth-year systems biology and physiology PhD student, were part of a pool of seven students at UC for the selection, three of whom were eventually nominated for the national competition.
Two organizations sponsor the student attendance at the Lindau meeting: Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) and Mars, Inc.
"I am thrilled that ORAU and Mars have selected two of our students to participate in this exciting conference,” says Robert Highsmith, PhD, associate dean for graduate education at the College of Medicine.
"It is highly unusual for any academic institution to receive multiple awards for this program,” he adds. "This selection recognizes the high quality of our students and faculty mentors and their accomplishments, as well as the strength of our graduate programs in general. Our students will not be passive participants; they will contribute greatly to the success of the event.”
During the meeting, students will attend morning talks by Nobel laureates and spend afternoons in smaller groups discussing research and interacting with the researchers.
As part of the UC’s Medical Scientists Training Program, McCracken completed two years of medical school at UC before starting four years of study in molecular and developmental biology. Now in the final months of his doctoral degree, he will resume his third year of medical school this summer.
In the lab of Jim Wells, PhD, a professor of developmental biology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, McCracken studies the development of the embryonic endoderm using stem cell models, as well as using stem cells to develop three-dimensional organ-like tissues, or organoids, to further research into the digestive lining and other endoderm-derived organs.
"I was surprised to have been chosen (for the meeting),” says McCracken. "But I’m excited—it’s a great opportunity to not only meet other students, but also to talk to the Nobel laureates, hear from them in conversation and listen to them lecture. Seeing how they think and how they approach the science will be pretty impactful.”
McCracken’s lab shared a link with the other UC student attending the Lindau meeting, Amy Engevik.
In the lab of associate professor of physiology Yana Zavros, PhD, Engevik studies the gastric ulcer repair process and healing mechanism, specifically the role of the protein Sonic Hedgehog (Shh) and how it regulates ulcer repair in the stomach.
In another part of her research, Engevik uses the stem cell-rich gastric organoids, transplanting them into stomach ulcer models in mice to promote healing.
Engevik says she’s very excited to attend the meeting and learn from Nobel laureates about their career path.
"There will be laureates there who have made discoveries in my field and truly impacted the research that I do,” she says. "They’ve excelled in their scientific careers—it will be very helpful to learn directly from them what worked and what didn’t along the way.”
"I’m very proud of our students,” says Zavros, who directs the Systems Biology and Physiology PhD Program. "Both of them will represent the university outstandingly. I’m very excited for both of them—I want to hear all about it when they get back.”
Past participants from UC include: Jennifer Marlowe (Environmental Genetics and Molecular Toxicology), Margaret Stefater (MSTP/Neuroscience), Kristy Heppner (Neuroscience), Annette De Kloet (Neuroscience) and James Stefater III (MSTP/Molecular and Developmental Biology).