The Summer Science Program at Arkansas Children's Hospital, a program co-sponsored by the UAMS Department of Pediatrics and the Arkansas Children’s Research Institute, gives outstanding sophomore-, junior-, and senior-level college students the experience of a career in academic medicine—in both the clinical and the research aspects. The students spend 8 weeks during their summer shadowing physicians, attending rounds and clinics, and touring different hospital units, as well as participating in a mentored research project involving children’s health. Faculty members from various pediatric subspecialties are organized to teach basic science and clinical research techniques and help the students gain exposure to clinical medicine. In addition, the Summer Science Program hosts a lecture series focusing on various aspects of academic medicine, graduate school, medical school, residency, research and clinical medicine for its participants. At the end of the program, students give a scientific presentation on their mentored research project. The program offers valuable experience for students interested in medicine, research, and pediatrics. A small stipend is offered to program participants.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Students must be at the sophomore, junior, or senior level in college. Preference is given to qualified students who are entering their junior and senior years and are Arkansas residents or have strong ties to Arkansas.
  • Students must have an interest in a science career.

Summer Science Program Class of 2019This summer, the UAMS Department of Pediatrics/ACRI Summer Science Program provided 22 outstanding students the experience of a career in academic medicine—in both the clinical and the research aspects. These students spent June and July shadowing physicians, attending rounds and clinics, and touring different hospital units, as well as participating in mentored research projects involving children’s health. Faculty from various pediatric subspecialties taught basic science and clinical research techniques and helped the students gain exposure to clinical medicine. In addition, the Summer Science Program hosted a twice-a-week lecture series focusing on various aspects of academic medicine, graduate school, medical school, residency, research, and clinical medicine for its participants. At the end of the program, each student gave a scientific presentation on his or her mentored research project.

Hayden Bowman – Ouachita Baptist University

Hayden Bowman received a complete overview of the work of his mentor, Graham Strub, MD, an Assistant Professor in the Pediatric Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Department of UAMS, this summer. Dr. Strub’s principal research interest is the development of molecular biology tools to guide surgical decision making, specifically, in regards to vascular anomalies.

Vascular anomalies are abnormal growths of blood vessels that can range from birthmarks to large lesions. Lesions, when located in the head and neck area, may affect breathing and eating. Though few medications are available for treatment, they are generally ineffective; therefore, surgery is often a treatment method.

Hayden, a senior biomedical sciences major at Ouachita Baptist University, shadowed Dr. Strub with his patients in the ENT Clinic. He observed the diagnoses of patients with vascular anomalies and learned of the treatment plans recommended by Dr. Strub. In some cases where surgical intervention was required, Hayden was able to view the procedure in the operating room. With approval, Dr. Strub would collect tissue samples during surgery for his experimental work in developing non-surgical interventions.

Hayden examined these samples in the Arkansas Vascular Biology Program laboratory to detect genetic changes in vascular anomalies that cause them to grow. Identifying the genetic differences between collected and normal tissues allows Dr. Strub to discover the genes that cause these masses to grow. These experiments help identify new molecular treatments to target these genes non-surgically.

Hayden describes Dr. Strub as a “fantastic mentor” that allowed him to see the different aspects of what he does. Dr. Strub noted Hayden’s enthusiasm and skill, “He could pick up microbiology techniques quickly and carry on experiments independently.” Hayden, who is from Searcy, plans to attend medical school after graduating from OBU next year.

Caroline Harrelson – Episcopal Collegiate School

Advances in medical care and treatment for children with severe respiratory illnesses have led to increased survival rates. Though these children are discharged, they still have a critical medical condition, and many require continued ventilation at home. However, many children on home ventilation are readmitted to the hospital. Half of the readmissions for ventilator-dependent children occur within 3 months of discharge, and almost 30% of these children visited the emergency department as soon as 30 days after their initial release from the hospital.

With Dr. Agarwal’s guidance, Caroline reviewed electronic medical records of children with tracheostomy and invasive ventilation from the past year and a half. She helped create a HIPAA-compliant database for information from these records. Reports from the database presented an overview of this patient population, including demographics, diagnosis, other existing conditions, length of initial hospital stay, readmission after initial discharge, and final outcomes.

Caroline’s study showed that patients discharged on ventilation have significant utilization of health care resources in terms of the initial length of stay and frequent hospitalization. A better understanding of health care utilization by ventilator-dependent children can aid Dr. Agarwal to develop strategies to reduce the length of hospital stay and to decrease preventable readmissions for these children.

Caroline enjoyed her two-month experience noting that Dr. Agarwal clearly explained the conditions and needs of pediatric pulmonary patients. Dr. Agarwal, an Associate Professor of Pediatric Pulmonary in the UAMS Department of Pediatrics, found Caroline to an exceptional high school student who quickly understood the terminology and concepts she encountered. Caroline is considering universities in Arkansas, Texas, and Colorado for pre-medical studies prior to medical school, in which she has an interest in cardiovascular disease.

Robert Shannon – Episcopal Collegiate School

This summer, high school senior Robert Shannon worked hands-on in the Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center laboratory of ACNC Investigator Keshari Thakali, PhD. Among the research interests of the lab is understanding how perivascular adipose tissue (fat tissue surrounding blood vessels) controls vascular function and how it is related to cardiovascular disease. A main focus of Dr. Thakali’s laboratory is understanding how in utero exposure to maternal obesity can alter the precursor cells that become perivascular adipose tissue and thus alter perivascular adipose tissue function. Robert assisted with learning if the function of perivascular adipose tissue can be changed through dietary or physical activity interventions before or during pregnancy to improve cardiovascular outcome in offspring.

In the laboratory, Robert explanted aortic tissue. In other words, he dissected aortic tissue from mice and stimulating tissue growth in cell culture. The aorta of a mouse is generally not bigger than the tip of a fine-point ballpoint pen. Robert then further dissected each aorta under a microscope to isolate the needed tissue. During culturing, he added growth factors and drugs to determine if the aortic cells can express perivascular adipose tissue precursor genes. The laboratory skills he used must be precise and performed under sterile conditions to ensure integrity of the experimental results. Importantly, Robert developed these techniques for Dr. Thakali’s laboratory for use in future experiments.

Through his Summer Science Program experience, Robert has taken skills he has learned in his Episcopal Collegiate School laboratory and applied them in a scientific setting. Clinically, Robert shadowed physicians in pediatric neurology, and he followed pediatric neurosurgeons including observing surgery this summer.

Robert appreciated the support and advice of his mentor, Dr. Thakali, an Assistant Professor of Developmental Nutrition in the UAMS Department of Pediatrics. He said she has taught him much this summer and appreciated her patience. Dr. Thakali spoke highly of Robert. She stated he was diligent and, after some guidance, began working independently quickly.

Robert learned about the Summer Science Program through Chapel presentations by Episcopal Collegiate School students who participated in the program last year. Robert plans on pre-med studies in college. He is considering the University of Arkansas, Hendrix College, University of Missouri, and Washington University for attendance after graduation.





Project Title




Gresham Richter

Infantile Hemangiomas

Ped. Otolaryngology

Carolina Coleman


Aline Andres

Breastmilk Composition of Women with Different BMI

Developmental Nutrition

Claire Keisling


Graham Strub

Identification of MicroRNA Profiles of Lymphatic Malformations

Ped. Otolaryngology

Hayden Bowman


Ronald Sanders

Unplanned Extubation Study; Red Blood Cell Features in Critical Illness; Airway Management Safety

Critical Care

Krishna Patel


Marie Burdine

Role of DNA-PKcs in the Immune System and its Effects on Organ Rejection


Olivia Moffett


Nirmala Parajuli

Novel Role of Heat Shock Protein 72 During Renal Cold Storage Plus Transplantation


Savannah Stacks


Gregory Albert

Natural History of Chiari I Malformation


Matthew Carey


Amit Agarwal

Arkansas Home Ventilator Database and Registry


Caroline Harrelson


Sam Smith

Surgery Research Training Initiative


Ryan Pohlkamp


Tara Johnson

Implementation and Quantification of the General Movement Assessment to Improve Upon Early Detection and Treatment of Neurodevelopmental Disabilities

Ped. Neurology

Ella Grace Beeler


Supriya Jambhekar

Family History of CPAP Use in Pediatric Patients Treated with CPAP in our Sleep Clinic


Emme Edmondson


Umesh Wankhade

Maternal BMI and its Effect of Differentiation Potential of Umbilical Cord Mesenchymal Stem Cells

Developmental Nutrition

Rachel Handloser


Judy Weber/Elisabet Borsheim

Center for Childhood Obesity Prevention; Metabolism Core Projects

CARE/Developmental Nutrition

Julia Bielanin


Eduardo Ochoa

Children’s HealthWatch Study

Community Peds

Tel Johnson


Kapil Arya

An Assessment of the Role of Video EEG for Event Characterization in Children with Autism and Staring Spells


Nikki Verma


Laura Hobart-Porter/Supriya Jambhekar

Does Screening Improve Detection of Sleep Disorders in Children with Myelomeningocle?

Developmental Peds & Rehabilitation/Pulmonary & Sleep Medicine

Drake Enderlin


Eylem Ocal

Evaluation of State of Spina Bifida Care in Arkansas via Clinical Database Registry


Phong Nguyen


Keshari Thakali

Effect of Maternal Obesity of Perivascular Adipose Tissue Mitochondrial Function

Developmental Nutrition

Robert Shannon


Brandi Whitaker

Stress, Sleep and Resilience in Caregivers of Respiratory Technology Dependent Children


Emily Allen


Katherine Irby

Trends in Central Venous Access in PICUs across the United States

Critical Care

Alex Kammien


Matthew Malone

Early Enteral Nutrition in Critically Ill Pediatric Trauma Patients

Critical Care

Jarrod Rogers


Yelena Aronchik

Using Bedside Ultrasound to Assess for VP Shunt Malfunctions

Emergency Dept.

Maddie Sorensen