The BVU-Mayo Clinic Connection

The BVU-Mayo Clinic Connection

The BVU-Mayo Clinic Connection

A connection with the Mayo Clinic that began when one of the nation’s leading cancer researchers was the keynote speaker for the 2004 dedication of the Estelle Siebens Science Center has led to prestigious summer research opportunities for BVU science students.

Dr. Stephen J. Russell, the associate dean for research at Mayo Clinic and member of the BVU Board of Trustees, says that since delivering the 2004 dedication address, he has developed a rewarding relationship with BVU staff and students. Since then, several students have been accepted for paid research fellowships in the Department of Molecular Medicine at Mayo.

At Mayo, Russell has created one of the finest gene therapy programs in the world and has developed a groundbreaking strategy that reengineers the measles virus to destroy cancer cells.

The student internship program — Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) — is a 10-week experience and includes a $5,000 cash stipend. “Imagine having the opportunity to get paid to spend the summer of your junior year engineering viruses to kill cancer cells or developing gene therapy approaches to regenerate heart tissue after a heart attack,” says Dr. Brian Lenzmeier, associate professor of biology who is BVU’s liaison with Mayo. “For a science student, it doesn’t get much better than that.”

“In recent years, we have had at least four students intern there and three others were selected but took positions in labs at other institutions,” says Lenzmeier. “Our students do well in the application process because Mayo knows that our science curriculum is rigorous and prepares students well intellectually for the intensity of the summer research experience.”

Benjamin Lancaster Class of 2010, did research for 10 weeks in the lab of Dr. Kah Whye Peng in the virology and gene therapy department. Peng is best known for her engineering of measles viruses that specifically attack and kill ovarian cancer cells.

“While my career plans have always been in medicine, this fellowship opened my eyes to the world of research and I realized I definitely could enjoy it,” says Ben. “It taught me a lot about the process of research and translational science.”