Each year, Mayo Clinic invites around 180 undergraduates from across the nation to participate in its Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program. We are pleased to share the news that five students from the School of Molecular & Cellular Biology will conduct research this summer as part of this exciting program.

Sponsored by the Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the 10-week program gives undergraduates a chance to work at the forefront of biomedical research at one of the world’s leading medical centers. Students work in the laboratories of Mayo Clinic faculty on small research projects or as part of ongoing investigations and attend weekly seminars.

Mayo Clinic reserves seven spots each year for University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign students who are chosen by the Mayo Clinic & Illinois Alliance pre-selection committee. Eleven U of I students are headed to Rochester, Minn., this year.

We look forward to seeing what these students accomplish with the combined knowledge and experience gained from their time at two world-class research institutions. A poster session is planned for September. Sign up for the Mayo Clinic & Illinois Alliance electronic mailing list for updates and an invitation to the fall poster session.


Meet the MCB students participating this year.

Neha Arun is a junior majoring in molecular and cellular biology with a minor in music. At the University of Illinois, she works in Professor Collin Kieffer’s laboratory. Neha dances and serves as director of video production with Truth and Beauty, a group that promotes dancers of all backgrounds through K-Pop dance. She also serves with the UIUC chapter of the Foundation for the International Medical Relief of Children. Neha plans to pursue a career doing research in immunology/virology. As a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow, Neha will be working with Andrew Badley, MD, whose research focuses on virus-host interactions; in particular, on how viral proteins modify the host-immune response and on cell survival.

Evan Dray is a junior working toward a double major in molecular and cellular biology honors and chemistry. He plans to pursue an MD/PhD in pharmacology to support his career in translational oncology/pharmacology research. Evan’s work in the laboratory of Professor Daniel McKim has resulted in a first-author publication in Molecular Immunology. Evan is also involved with the Life + Career Design Lab at Illinois as a LAS 101 instructor and mentors first and second year students in biology and chemistry. Evan will be working with David Daniels, MD, PhD, in the laboratory of experimental drugs and therapeutics for pediatric brain tumors.

Sarah Matatov is a junior working toward a biochemistry and psychology dual degree as well as a minor in chemistry and a certificate in computer science. At Illinois, Sarah is an undergraduate research assistant in the laboratories of Professor Auinash Kalsotra and Professor Kara D. Federmeier. Sarah is an editor for Brain Matters, the on-campus neuroscience journal, and a certified EMT-B. In the future, she hopes to pursue an MD-PhD in biochemistry to study the mechanisms of neurodegenerative disorders. Sarah will be working with Marissa Schafer, PhD, who studies cellular senescence and how it relates to Alzheimer's disease and develops therapies for clearing the body of senescent cells to alleviate the Alzheimer's phenotype.

Angelina Wilton is a senior studying molecular and cellular biology and psychology. At the U of I, she works in Professor Hee Jung Chung's laboratory. She is an undergraduate teaching assistant for the Chemistry Merit Program, and student director for a new online social work team at Avicenna Community Health Center. Angelina plans to pursue a career in medicine or biomedical research. This summer, she will be working with Illinois alumnus Arjun Athreya, PhD, MS, and Richard Weinshilboum, MD, on a variety of projects involving antidepressants, pharmacogenetics and pharmacogenomics, and the application of artificial intelligence to some of those topics.

Andrew Zhang is a junior in the molecular and cellular biology honors program. At the U of I, he works in Professor Huimin Zhao’s laboratory. Andrew serves as a board member for the Illinois student chapter of the American Chemical Society. He also writes for Illinois’ Brain Matters journal. Andrew is interested in pursuing an MD-PhD in biomedical sciences. This summer, Andrew will work with Isobel Scarisbrick, PhD, to identify cellular and molecular mechanisms contributing to injury and repair processes in the spinal cord as therapeutic targets to improve neurological recovery.