May 7, 2004

Two medical students earn Howard Hughes research fellowships

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Jacek Hawiger, M.D., Ph.D

Two medical students earn Howard Hughes research fellowships

Two Vanderbilt University School of Medicine students will be taking a year off from school and delving into research with the help of Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Research Training Fellowships.

Second-year student James Peacock will be engaged in immunology research at Columbia University, and third-year student Olga Weinberg will spend next year at UCLA studying estrogen receptors and growth factor receptors in non-small cell lung cancer cells (NSCLC).

The HHMI fellowships are awarded to medical students on the basis of the applicant’s ability and promise for a research career as a physician-scientist, and the quality of training that will be provided. The fellowships involve an academic year of research, which culminates in May with the Meeting of Medical Student Fellows. During this gathering the fellows will present their project results.

“James and Olga both had very strong applications, and I am proud that they will have a chance to carry out their research supported by such a prestigious organization,” said Bonnie Miller, M.D., associate dean for Medical Students. “This opportunity could very likely impact the direction of their future careers.”

Peacock’s previous research has focused on the role of PI3K/AKT and TGF-beta signaling cascades in prostate cancer, and he will continue to work on these two pathways elucidating their roles in macrophage function and pulmonary fibrosis.   

“I’m eager to start the program, and I owe so much thanks to Vanderbilt,” Peacock said. “I’ve had so many tremendous opportunities here and so much support from the faculty, especially Dr. Simon Hayward and Dean Miller.”

Weinberg will be involved with clinical trials for patients with NSCLC and her study will test the hypothesis that activation of estrogen and associated growth factor receptors enhances growth of NSCLC, possibly offering new therapeutic targets.

“I had planned on taking this year off to do research because I wanted to dedicate more time to this area,” Weinberg said. “I hope that my results will be of value to cancer research and the ultimate goal of finding a cure.”

Both students will begin their fellowships this summer.