Mayo Clinic Special Research Student Appointment

Home / Academics / Enhance Your Academic Experience / Research / Mayo Clinic Special Research Student Appointment

The Mayo Clinic Special Research Student appointment is intended to provide a meaningful research experience to students considering a career in biomedical research and to expose them to the educational opportunities at Mayo for prospective candidates to the biomedical sciences Ph.D. and M.D.-Ph.D. programs. This appointment will offer on-going research opportunities for independent study course credit to students considering a career in biomedical research. Mayo Clinic investigators will also obtain first-hand knowledge about potential Mayo Graduate School candidates before they apply. 

Learn more about the Mayo faculty that are participating in the program. 

    Research Interest
Leif Bergsagel Leif Bergsagel, M.D. Leif Bergsagel, M.D., studies the molecular pathogenesis of multiple myeloma, a tumor of mature, isotype-switched plasma cells. It is a uniformly fatal malignancy that is frequently preceded by a common (1 percent of adults), benign preclinical phase known as monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS). Dr. Bergsagel's laboratory is focused on understanding the molecular events that lead to the development of MGUS and its progression to multiple myeloma
Henrique Borges da Silva Henrique Borges da Silva, Ph.D. Dr. Henrique Borges da Silva, Ph.D. studies how extracellular nucleotides regulate the immune system. Nucleotides (e.g. ATP, AMP, and Adenosine) are produced by and influence numerous intracellular pathways. In diverse circumstances, they are released into the extracellular environment and are sensed by specific receptors (purinergic receptors). Many purinergic receptors are expressed by immune cells. Dr. Borges da Silva’s lab has a main focus on determining how extracellular ATP (eATP) sensing affects transcriptional, metabolic and functional mechanisms of antigen-specific CD8+ T cells in response to viral infections or cancer. This stems from fundamental discoveries made by Dr. Borges da Silva which showed a crucial role for the eATP sensor P2RX7 in the establishment of CD8+ T cell memory. Dr. Borges da Silva aims to expand these findings by using a wide range of current and new experimental tools.
Esteban Braggio Estaban Braggio, Ph.D. Esteban Braggio, Ph.D., is primarily interested in studying the genetic basis of leukemias and lymphomas that affect B cells, a specific cell type found in the blood and bone marrow. B cells are an essential component of the adaptive immune system.
Maria Chesi Marta Chesi, Ph.D. The goal of Dr. Chesi, PhD, research is to understand and model in vivo the genomic events that contribute to multiple myeloma initiation and progression and to identify clinically relevant therapeutic approaches that target those events. The immunocompetent Vk*MYC transgenic mouse model she has generated is essential for this effort, because it provides a platform for testing the oncogenic role of mutations identified in myeloma patients, and for characterizing the activity of anti-myeloma drugs and immune-therapeutics on the tumor cells and on their microenvironment.
Marion Curtis Marion Curtis, Ph.D. The main research focus of Marion R. Curtis, Ph.D., centers on understanding how the tumor microenvironment influences the metabolism of immune cells and how the metabolic state of immune cells may regulate cancer metastasis and response to immunotherapy. Dr. Curtis' laboratory employs a wide variety of techniques, including metabolomics, proteomics and advanced cellular imaging, applied to primary human cells and cancer models to identify mediators of immune cell metabolism and function.
Elena De Filippis Elena De Filippis, M.D., Ph.D. Elena De Filippis, M.D., Ph.D., and her laboratory focus on identifying novel molecular mechanisms and pathways altered in the metabolism of fat. In her laboratory, a translational approach is adopted by conducting research at the Clinical Study Infusion Unit, at Mayo Clinic's campus in Arizona. There, in vivo methods such as the euglycemic-hyperinsulinemic clamp technique associated with the use of stable isotope to assess insulin sensitivity are used on participants, while human fat tissue samples are collected by performing subcutaneous fat biopsies.
John Fryer John D. Fryer, PhD The laboratory of John D. Fryer, Ph.D., studies the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease, focusing on molecular mechanisms of known genetic risk factors. Some of these genetic risk factors are known to be involved in immune system function, likely mediated by the resident immune cells of the brain (microglia). Interestingly, the same populations at risk of Alzheimer's disease are also at high risk of sepsis, a devastating condition that can lead to disability and long-term cognitive dysfunction. Dr. Fryer seeks to understand whether these inflammatory pathways converge on individuals to initiate a spiraling cognitive decline. His research team pursues these research avenues with biochemical and molecular techniques, using a variety of mouse genetic models and in vitro systems.
Amylou Dueck Amylou Dueck, Ph.D. Dr. Dueck's primary role at Mayo Clinic is designing and analyzing clinical trials in hematologic malignancies, though she additionally collaborates with investigators in neurology and other departments on studies of various designs. Focus areas:
  • Design and analysis of cancer treatment clinical trials
  • Novel endpoints in symptom management and cancer treatment clinical trials
  • Analysis and interpretation issues related to patient-reported outcomes
Clifford Folmes Clifford D. Folmes, Ph.D. Research in the laboratory of Clifford D. Folmes, Ph.D., focuses on how mitochondria and energy metabolism regulate cell fate decisions, and the molecular mechanisms by which individual metabolic pathways support stage-specific stem cell function. The lab employs a wide variety of investigative techniques, such as metabolic flux analysis and metabolomics in disease models and human cell cultures.
Karen Hedin  Karen Hedin, PhD The Hedin lab conducts research focusing on CXCR4 chemokine receptor and other signal transduction and receptor trafficking in the immune system and cancer. Among other discoveries, we found that CXCR4 forms a heterodimeric complex with the T cell antigen receptor (TCR) which is required for the stabilization of cytokine mRNAs and high cytokine secretion in normal T cells and cutaneous T cell lymphoma (CTCL)/Sezary syndrome. We also identified a novel CXCR4 apoptosis pathway in acute myeloid leukemia cells (AML) that is emerging as a useful therapeutic axis. Currently, we are characterizing factors regulating AML cell survival within the bone marrow microenvironment, we are collaborating with pharma to identify interactions of these pathways with a single-agent drug that has shown promise in clinical trials for treating leukemia, we are identifying molecular mechanisms and RNA binding proteins responsible for CXCR4 regulation of T cell cytokine secretion, and we are collaborating with Dr. Saad Kenderian (Mayo Clinic) to improve the efficacy of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) adoptive T cell therapy for leukemia.
Elizabeth Jacobsen  Elizabeth A. Jacobsen, PhD Elizabeth A. Jacobsen, PhD. is an expert in eosinophil biology. Eosinophils are granulocytes that are generally associated with asthma and allergies, but recently are found to play a role in metabolism, liver injury, transplant rejection, cancer and many other diseases. Understanding the factors that regulate the responses of these cells is a major goal of Dr. Jacobsen’s research. Dr. Jacobsen primarily works with in vitro and translational models of inflammation, yet also participates with the greater Division of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Group at Mayo Clinic in patient studies.
Hirohito Kita Hirohito Kita, Ph.D. Dr. Kita’s laboratory studies the immunologic mechanisms of allergic diseases, including peanut and food allergy, allergy rhinitis (hay fever) and bronchial asthma. The goals are to better understand the pathophysiology of these diseases and to develop novel treatment and preventive strategies for patients. The laboratory isolates, cultures and studies airway epithelial cells, innate lymphoid cells and T cells in vitro. Several mouse models have been developed to simulate human diseases, and transgenic and gene-deficient mice are used to dissect the mechanisms. Blood and tissue specimens from patients are also collected and analyzed.
Jessica Lancaster Jessica Lancaster, Ph.D. Jessica N. Lancaster, Ph.D., investigates age-associated alterations to the immune system. As the immune system ages, it is less able to combat new pathogens and responds poorly to vaccination, making the elderly more vulnerable to infectious disease. The aged immune system also has more trouble recognizing cancer, making therapy less effective in elderly patients. At the same time, the immune system is more likely to be activated inappropriately, leading to increased incidence of autoimmune disease. Dr. Lancaster’s research focuses on the development and response of T cells and B cells, members of the immune system that are exquisitely tailored to their targets and are essential for resolving infectious threats. Using live-cell two-photon microscopy, Dr. Lancaster directly visualizes T and B cells as they interact within their organ microenvironments, in order to understand how communication within the immune system breaks down with age. The molecular mechanisms of the altered immune response are further studied using in vitro culture, flow cytometry, and mouse models. As an ever-increasing segment of the world’s population reaches the age of 65 years and older, it is critical to understand why the immune system changes with age in order to develop strategies to improve immunity and quality of life.
Joseph C.  Lofus Joseph C. Lofus, Ph.D. Joseph C. Loftus, Ph.D., studies the role of integrin-mediated adhesion and signaling in the regulation of cell migration and cell growth. The long-term goal of Dr. Loftus' research team is to develop effective therapies for the treatment of glioblastoma, which is the most common form of primary brain tumor.
SangKon Oh SangKon Oh, Ph.D. The overall research goal of the laboratory of SangKon Oh, Ph.D., is to understand how the innate immune system plays a decision-making role in orchestrating the strength, quality and persistence of antigen-specific T and B cell responses. This fundamental question can be addressed in the context of microbial infections, cancers and inflammatory diseases (including autoimmune diseases).
Lisa Rimsza 

Lisa Rimsza, MD

Dr. Rimsza’s clinical focus is hematopathology, including blood, lymph node and tissue diagnosis of benign and malignant lymphoid and myeloid disorders. Her research focuses on loss of immune surveillance in lymphoma; gene expression profiling and mutational analysis of lymphoid malignancies; lymphoma biomarker development and commercialization; and AIDS-related lymphomas. In addition to giving presentations on her research to both national and international audiences, Dr. Rimsza has authored numerous peer-reviewed journal articles, abstracts, book chapters and other written publications. She also serves on the editorial board for Journal of Hematopathology and holds reviewer responsibilities for prominent scientific journals.

Nhan Tran Nhan L. Tran, Ph.D. The research of Nhan L. Tran, Ph.D., is focused on elucidating the cellular and biochemical mechanisms of action of candidate genes expressed in highly invasive cancer cells. Dr. Tran's lab is currently investigating several targets mediating cancer invasion and survival.
Junwen Wang Junwen Wang, Ph.D. Junwen Wang, Ph.D., develops bioinformatics tools, databases and algorithms to analyze biomedical big data, to annotate genetic variants and to construct gene regulatory networks. Dr. Wang is actively collaborating with biologists and clinicians to apply these methodologies to specific diseases for research and clinical treatments. He is currently focusing his research on lung, breast, brain and colon cancers.
Zong Wei Zong Wei, PhD In 2018, over 100 million people within the United States were either diabetic or prediabetic; by the year 2030 the obesity rate in the United States is expected to surpass 42%. Accordingly, obesity has been classified as a pandemic disease. Both obesity and diabetes introduce a multitude of severely debilitating pathologies in patients, including blindness, kidney failure, stroke, cancer, heart disease, depression, neuropathy, loss of limbs, infertility and death. Because of these complications, millions of people rely daily on medications to regulate their fundamental metabolic processes. The laboratory of Zong Wei, Ph.D., focuses on creating novel models to study diabetes and metabolism, and to identify therapeutic targets in metabolic diseases. Using both human stem cell-differentiated organoids and mouse models, the laboratory investigates the epigenomic regulation of cellular dysfunction in diabetes and metabolic diseases, identifies novel therapeutic targets in obesity and inflammation, and studies the fundamental mechanisms of transcription and chromatin biology.
Benjamin Wright Benjamin Wright, M.D. Dr. Wright investigates the immunologic mechanisms of food allergy and eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE).  We believe that allergic diseases are protective host-defense mechanisms gone awry.  Our lab has shown that IgE-mediated food allergy and EoE exist on the same disease spectrum and that persistent antigen exposure in the context of epithelial barrier disruption can stimulate type 2 inflammatory responses resulting in clinical disease.  We currently employ esophageal air liquid interface cultures and novel mouse models to examine the environmental and host factors that initiate the immunopathology of food allergy and EoE.  Our lab is also actively engaged in translational research efforts to identify diagnostic biomarkers of EoE and has an active biobank of clinical specimens.
Wuqiang Zhu Wuqiang Zhu, MD, PhD Heart failure is a costly and deadly condition affecting over 5 million Americans. The research in Dr. Zhu laboratory uses in vitro and in vivo models, as well as human biopsy samples, to understand the pathogenesis of heart failure and to develop novel therapeutics to enhance cardiac regeneration and cardioprotection in patients with heart failure. Research in the laboratory of Wuquiang Zhu, M.D., Ph.D., focuses on understanding the pathophysiology of heart failure and developing therapeutic approaches for cardiac regeneration and repair. The proliferative capacity of cardiomyocytes in the adult mammalian heart is too low to promote structural and functional recovery after injuries. Disorders of ventricular function and structure after ischemic injury reduce cardiac output and can impair diastolic relaxation of the heart, leading to heart failure. Current therapeutic regimens do not address the root cause of heart failure due to ischemic injury, such as the loss of cardiomyocytes and their replacement by a non-contractile fibrous scar.

Position Description

  • Students will have appointments during the academic year.
  • No stipend is associated with this appointment, as the students receive credit for their participation (HON 498)
  • Students will collaborate with a Mayo Clinic investigator on a research project. In some cases, the research project may evolve into the honors thesis project, if approved by the thesis chair and the Mayo Clinic investigator.

Learning Objectives

  • Demonstrate a scholarly approach to biomedical problems and a willingness to learn new skills/ techniques that are needed to solve biomedical problems.
  • Describe the critical role of basic science, clinical, epidemiological and translational research and scholarship in understanding and alleviating disease and disability from disease.
  • Describe the steps needed to identify a suitable biomedical research question, formulate a hypothesis, design a suitable experimental procedure, obtain and properly analyze data.
  • Work with a faculty mentor to analyze a research question and analyze and interpret the data collected.
  • Demonstrate command of the domain of research project and present data coherently and effectively.
  • Describe the process of preparing research materials for publication or presentation.


Exceptional Arizona State University (ASU) Barrett Honors College students are eligible for participation.

Applicants must:

  • Be in second or third year in Barrett at ASU during semester of appointment. 
  • Have a grade point average of at least a 3.3 (4.0 scale).
  • Be seeking a major relevant to the desired experience within The College, the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, or the College of Health Solutions with at least 1 year of experience (recommended).
  • Be seriously considering a biomedical research career as a Ph.D. or M.D.-Ph.D. (as opposed to practicing as a physician).
  • Be able to devote at least 10 hours per week to the research project on the Scottsdale campus at Mayo Clinic. (Three consecutive days each week with uninterrupted laboratory time of 3-4 hours each day is preferred, but not required – TBD with Mayo Clinic Investigator).
  • If planning a thesis, have an ASU faculty co-director for the thesis if the Mayo Clinic investigator does not have an academic affiliation with ASU.
  • Be able to register for HON 498 for 3 credits each semester of appointment
  • Have access to transportation to and from Mayo Clinic

Applications will be initially reviewed by Barrett, The Honors College and eligible applicants will be submitted to Mayo faculty for further review. 

Attachments must include:

  • A personal statement describing your interest in the program and career goals
  • A copy of your transcript (unofficial is acceptable)
  • One signed letter of recommendation on letterhead (from a current or previous supervisor or faculty member)

Expectations of student researchers

  • Register for 3 credits of HON 498
  • Be present for all agreed-upon hours of research work at Mayo.
  • Be familiar with all background materials in preparation for research work.
  • Complete all work (laboratory/clinical work, writing, presentations, etc.) on time and excellently.
  • Be responsive to all feedback and requests by research mentor in regard to the research experience.

Expectations of investigators

    • Be available to student researcher.
    • Offer guidance in the research work.
    • Ensure that student researcher has adequate space, materials, and access to equipment.
    • Provide mentoring to student researcher.
    • Provide an evaluation of student’s research work at end of semester (the independent study will be graded with pass/fail).

Applications for the spring 2022 are now open. 

The application deadline has been extended to Wednesday, October 20, 2021 at 12:00p


Responsible leaders for this partnership are Vicki Hochstetler, Mayo Clinic, at and Cassandra Lee Saenz, Internship & Community Engagement Coordinator, Sr., at or 480-727-5169.