Summer Science Program Class of 2018

This year’s Summer Science Program provided 24 outstanding students the experience of the clinical and the research aspects of a career in academic medicine.

This summer, the UAMS Department of Pediatrics/ACRI Summer Science Program provided 24 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.

Dillon Wester observed the activity of chemoresistant-promoting protein expressed in pancreatic cancer.

Dillon Wester – Ouachita Baptist University

This summer, Dillon Wester, had a hands-on laboratory experience that boosted his academic and career goals. Dillon, a senior biology major at Ouachita Baptist University, worked in the laboratory of Dr. Marie Burdine at the Center for Translational Pediatric Research (P20GM121293) where he also conducted an independent research project.

Dillon observed the activity of ATAD2, a protein highly expressed in pancreatic cancer and that promotes chemoresistance, by using standard laboratory procedures. His results allowed him to locate where the protein was binding to DNA in cancer cells he grew and maintained in cultures in the laboratory. Establishing the site of binding can lead to creating inhibitors to block the cancer-promoting activity of ATAD2. Important steps to developing improved chemotherapy.

Conducting his project with Dr. Burdine’s guidance provided Dillon, from Mesquite, Texas, with an experience beyond that of his academic laboratory. “I learned how these instruments and techniques work,” Dillon said, “It was more than ‘do this’ and ‘pour this.’”

Dillon’s mentor, Dr. Burdine of the Division of Surgical Research, noted, “Opportunities like the Summer Science Program give students access to the world of science.” She wanted Dillon to understand how important research is and how much hard work is involved, but to have a love for it. Dr. Burdine noted that Dillon’s independence and focus were traits that aided in his success.

The Summer Science Program experience did reinforce the importance of medical research for Dillon. “Without research there are no advances in medicine,” he said, “It is crucial in discovering new concepts and curing disease.” It has also influenced his post-graduate goals. He is planning to focus on pediatrics in medical school (he is targeting Baylor University and University of Texas Southwestern). Dillon now is contemplating an MD/PhD program to strengthen his interest in medical research.

Julienne Daniel – University of Arkansas

University of Arkansas Senior Julienne Daniel plans to attend medical school and to specialize in cardiology. She pointed to shadowing cardiovascular surgeons as a highlight of her Summer Science Program experience. “I saw how the team worked together and merged two surgical procedures to help a patient,” Julienne noted. Observing the surgical team conduct this novel surgery in the operating room only made the experience more exciting and outstanding.

In addition to time in the clinic, Julienne worked in the laboratory of Dr. Keshari Thakali at the Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center. Julienne’s independent research project assessed the effect of obesity on mitochondrial respiration, a function in cells needed to convert nutrients into energy, in mice. Her data suggested that high fat diet-induced obesity reduced mitochondrial function in perivascular adipose tissue, a fat deposit surrounding blood vessels. This reduced mitochondrial function may be an important factor driving cardiovascular changes associated with obesity.

Julienne Daniel assessed the effect of obesity on mitochondrial respiration.

Dr. Thakali of the Section of Developmental Nutrition stated, “It’s important for students to understand the process of how research leads to advancements in medicine.” Dr. Thakali noted that Julienne’s demonstration of intelligence, diligence, and inquisitiveness indicated she would be successful this summer and in the future.

“The program has helped me respect and appreciate what research does for medicine on the whole,” said Julienne, a biology major from Little Rock. Her involvement in the Summer Science Program reaffirmed her decision to study medicine and to consider also earning a PhD concurrently. Julienne is considering medical programs at the University of Alabama, the University of Arizona, the University of Oklahoma, and UAMS.

Anna-Claire Pilkington (left) and Julienne Daniel (right), pictured with Summer Science Program Coordinator Jenny Kubacak, received awards for their outstanding presentations at the end of the presentation week.

Summer Science Program Awards

At the end of the Summer Science Program, each student gave a scientific presentation on his or her mentored research project. ACRI presents two awards for outstanding presentations by the students.

This year among college students, Anna-Claire Pilkington, a junior at Texas Christian University who was mentored by Dr. Umesh Wankhade, Developmental Nutrition was awarded first place for the Most Outstanding Presentation, “Maternal Obesity Affects Offspring Brown Adipose Tissue Transcriptome,” and she received a $500 prize. Second place was won by Julienne Daniel, a senior at the University of Arkansas, who was mentored by Dr. Keshari Thakali, Developmental Nutrition, for her presentation “The Effect of High Fat Diet on Mitochondrial Function in Perivascular Adipose Tissue (PVAT).” She received a $250 prize. The awards for the most outstanding presentations by college students were sponsored by ACRI. Judges of the scientific presentations were Dr. Kartik Shankar (Developmental Nutrition), Dr. Deborah Jeffs (Nursing Research), Dr. Emily English (CARE), and Ms. Phaedra Yount (ACRI).

About the Summer Science Program

Dr. Robert Fiser, Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics (1975 to 1994), created the Summer Science Program in 1989 to encourage Arkansas college students to pursue careers in medicine and science. Initially, a few college students worked in various research laboratories in the department. Throughout the history of this program, it has been funded using seed money from drug companies, then private companies and a pediatric clinic, and currently through the UAMS Department of Pediatrics, Arkansas Children’s Research Institute, and the Stella Boyle Smith Trust (which sponsors two Stella Boyle Smith Summer Scholars from Episcopal Collegiate School)—testimony to the broad range of research and clinical support for this program.

Jenny Kubacak is the Coordinator of the Summer Science Program. Since 1992, approximately 300 students and over 100 pediatric research faculty members have participated in the program. This year, the program selected its participants from more than 120 applications and received the support of 24 faculty members serving as mentors. The Summer Science Program has an application deadline of February 28, 2019, for next year’s participants.

Listing of All 2018 Summer Science Program Projects



Project Title



Laxmi Yeruva

Role of miRNAs during chlamydial pathogenesis

Developmental Nutrition

Bailee Cummings

Umesh Wankhade

Gestational Programming of Adipose Tissue

Developmental Nutrition

Anna Pilkington

Ronald Sanders

RDW in Pediatric Critical Illness/Communication with Families who speak English as a second language/Unplanned extubation incidence

Critical Care

Tressa Linson

Tamara Perry

Telehealth Enhanced Asthma Management (TEAM)

Allergy & Immunology

Manasa Veluvolu

Ariel Berlinski

Evaluation of Feedback Features Present in Valved Holding Chambers

Pediatric Pulmonology

Kassidy Irwin

Kevin Bielamowicz

Does the Timing of Peg-Filgrastim Administration after Chemotherapy in Pediatric Oncology Patients Affect the Frequency of Fever and Neutropenia?

Pediatric Hematology & Oncology

Delanie Mack

Gregory Albert

Lower Cranial Nerve Palsies in Chiari Malformation


Harrison Ballard

Josh Kennedy

Viral-Induced Exacerbations of Asthma

Allergy & Immunology

Catherine Kirkpatrick

Rosemary Nabaweesi

The Clinical Effect of an Educational Intervention on Radiation Dose Among Injured Children Presenting to a Pediatric Trauma Center


Carli Cox

Shannon Rose

Examining Environmentally Triggered Bioenergetic Alterations in a Cell Model of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Clinical Pharmacology

Grace James

Joselin Niemyer

Child and Parent’s Perception Pain Control in a Pediatric ER

Pediatric Emergency

Michael Berry

April Clawson

The Value of Biomarkers in Evaluating Febrile Immunocompromised Pediatric Patients in a Pediatric ED

Pediatric Emergency

Kristine Ehlinger

Jessica Magruder

Retrospective Chart Review of Sedation Administration in the Pediatric ED

Pediatric Emergency

Jeremiah Smith

Alexa Bollinger/Amber Morse

Taking an Active Approach to Mental Health in the Pediatric Patient: Can We Make a Difference in the Peds ED?

Pediatric Emergency

Andrew Cook

Marie Burdine

A Novel Mechanism for Targeting the Epigenetic Protein ATAD2


Dillon Wester

Elisabet Borsheim

Physical Activity, Physical Fitness and Metabolic Health in Prepubertal Children


Kinsey Watkins

Keshari Thakali

Maternal Programming of Offspring Cardiovascular Function

Developmental Nutrition

Julienne Daniel

Sarah Blossom

Maternal Inflammatory Biomarkers and Fetal Neurodevelopment in Diabetic Pregnancy (MINDy)


Rachel Greer

Sarah Blossom

Reprogramming Obesogen-induced Neurologic Effects by Dietary Intervention


Kristen Jones

Katherine Irby

Association of Initiation of Atypical Antipsychotics and Duration of Delirium

Critical Care Medicine

Mason Belue

Sam Smith

Surgery Research Training Initiative


Safiya Belbina

Wendy Ward

Institutional Wellness

Pediatric Psychology

Duane Chen

Matthew Malone

Prophylactic Enoxaparin Dosing in Pediatric Intensive Care Patients

Critical Care Medicine

Addison Yee

Gresham Richter

Infantile Hemangiomas

Pediatric Otolaryngology

Tariq Salem