May. 16, 2014
Dr. Stephen J. Russell, the Richard O. Jacobson Professor of Molecular Medicine and Consultant Hematologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., is a member of the Buena Vista University Board of Trustees and is the leader of a team of researchers at Mayo Clinic who have just released promising results of a principle clinical trial using virotherapy to battle cancer, specifically multiple myeloma. Learn more about the clinical trial.
Along with being a trustee for BVU, Dr. Russell also engages with BVU students who participate in Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) in his department at Mayo Clinic. The student internship program is a 10-week experience and includes a cash stipend.
Jennifer Welch, a senior biochemistry and chemistry major at BVU participated in the internship in 2013, which was a major factor in her desire to attend graduate school. “My experience was an exciting time at Mayo because it was during the phase of this clinical trial when they were considering the success of this measles virus vaccine, and my project specifically focused on avoiding neutralization of viruses by the immune system,” said Jennifer. “I had weekly meetings with Dr. Russell to go over the progression of my project, and he is obviously very passionate about his field. He pushes you to really understand all aspects of what you're working on for your personal benefit, and also the benefit of being able to think more independently about the application of what you're doing in your project right now, but also in future projects.”
Emily Nielsen, Class of 2011, participated in the internship in 2010. She is now a second-year medical student at the University of Iowa and says the research experience she gained while working in Dr. Russell's lab has been invaluable to her education. “It is so exciting to see the efforts of Dr. Russell and the members of his lab be fulfilled in this breakthrough. While working in Dr. Russell’s lab, my project was aimed at engineering cells to be able to manufacture and harbor viruses that were targeted at destroying cancer,” said Emily. “Dr. Russell was an excellent mentor and role model as he guided me through the project while ensuring that I learned as much as I could about gene therapy and cancer, which are both such expansive areas within themselves that people can spend a lifetime researching. He is part of my inspiration to become a physician, as he not only makes a difference through the lives of his individual patients he sees in clinic, but also through the fascinating innovations and breakthroughs in his lab, all while being an inspiring individual and who was a pleasure to work with.”
Over the past six years, seven BVU students have interned and done research in his laboratory as part of the SURF program, and one student, Roland Pappoe, Class of 2014, recently published work with Dr. Russell.