Amy Engevik will leave the University of Cincinnati this week with more than just a new title—she’ll take the friendship of a gifted mentor along with memories of a Nobel Laureate’s wise counsel.
The graduate of the College of Medicine will receive a PhD in systems biology and physiology and plans to complete a postdoc at Vanderbilt University in gastrointestinal disorders. She spent three years at UC working in the laboratory of Yana Zavros, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology.
Master’s and PhD students from throughout the university, including 72 from the College of Medicine, will be honored Friday morning, May 1, 2015, during the Doctoral Hooding and Master’s Recognition in Fifth Third Arena.
"While I believe that the University of Cincinnati has many outstanding researchers, I think Dr. Zavros is exceptional for her dedication to research and to student success,” says Engevik. "As a member of her lab, I have learned multiple skills from animal surgical procedures to competencies in experimental design and writing research proposals.
"I believe Dr. Zavros’ investment in my research and education has better prepared me to purse the career of my choice,” says Engevik. "Previously, I had never considered a career in academia. However, watching Dr. Zavros do what she truly loves and the fact that she does it well has made me want to emulate her scientific career."
Engevik has already made an impression in the UC scientific community.
She received the American Physiological Society Research Recognition Award, the Graduate School Dean’s Fellowship for 2014-2015, the Daniel L. Kline Memorial Award, the Ohio Physiological Society’s Peter K. Lauf Student Travel Award and the System Biology & Physiology Retreat First Place Award.
Engevik was also among two UC students selected to attend the 64th annual Nobel Laureate meeting in Lindau, Germany, held June 29-July 4, 2014.
There she met Roger Tsien, a U.S. biochemist and professor at the University of California, San Diego, who was awarded the 2008 Nobel Prize in chemistry along with Barry James Marshall, an Australian physician, who won the Nobel Prize in 2005 in Physiology or Medicine.
"The opportunity to attend the Lindau Nobel Laureate conference is definitely one of the highlights from my time at UC,” Engevik explains. "I think it was the chance of a lifetime to meet so many "giants” in the field of science. It was incredible to listen to talks from Nobel Laureates who discovered or invented scientific tools I use every day such as Roger Tsien, who discovered and developed the green fluorescent protein.
"My favorite part of the conference was hearing the stories of the laureate’s path to success. I rarely hear about the failures and persistence required to convince others of an idea. Barry Marshall, who won the Nobel Prize for the discovery that the pathogen Helicobaceter pylori causes gastric ulcers, showed a rejection letter for an abstract submission to a conference. His abstract was one of only a handful that was rejected, yet he still won the Nobel Prize for this research. He attributed this success to the fact that he was dedicated to challenging the dogma of the day and convinced of the accuracy of his findings.”
Engevik says it was easy as a graduate student to get discouraged with the constant barrage of questioning of a young researcher’s data though it may ultimately build a better scientist.
"It was refreshing to hear stories of some of the greatest scientists of our times who have experienced the same skepticism that is ubiquitous throughout the scientific field,” says Engevik. "The Lindau meeting was a great experience for so many reasons. It gave me the opportunity to meet young scientists from around the world in an environment that fostered the exchange of scientific ideas and discussion. It also cemented my desire to pursue a career in academia focusing on translational research.”