Mayo Clinic Special Research Student Appointment

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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 spring 2020 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
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.
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. Fomes, 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.
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).
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.
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 fall 2020 have closed.

The application cycle for spring 2021 will open in late August / early September. 


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.