Studies have shown that research experience is essential for maintaining students’ interest in the sciences and in medicine. At Feinberg, the Kimberly Querrey Summer Research Program — a six- to eight-week paid, competitive summer research experience for high school and undergraduate students — combines intensive, hands-on biomedical research training with academic and professional development opportunities to foster students’ interest in the biological sciences and support their current and future success.
This year, the program was officially named the Kimberly Querrey Summer Research Program in recognition of Kimberly Querrey for her years of generous support to Northwestern.
The program is hosted by the Department of Medicine’s Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care. After pivoting to a remote-learning model in 2020 and taking a hiatus in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year the program partnered with the Division of Thoracic Surgery in the Department of Surgery, the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, the Department of Neurological Surgery, and the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation to provide a fully in-person, individually mentored, hypothesis-driven research experience.
The program is co-directed by Karen Ridge, PhD, professor of Medicine in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care and of Cell and Developmental Biology, and Colleen Reczek, PhD, research assistant professor of Medicine in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care.
“The philosophy of our program is that every person involved in the program possesses teachable knowledge that is passed back and forth between interns and mentors,” Ridge said. “This year’s interns brought renewed energy and joy to in-person learning. Equally important, the learning culture that was created and fostered by the Northwestern mentors persists after the program ends.”
This year, the program welcomed a record 33 summer interns. Each selected intern is matched with a Northwestern faculty member and given a hypothesis-driven or hypothesis-generating basic or clinical research project.
“Our program aims to be a fun experience that fosters a love for science. Not only do the interns gain experience at the bench, but they also have the opportunity to read and discuss the latest research articles, attend workshops that promote career development, learn about different career paths, shadow a clinician, and have data discussions with their peers,” Reczek said.
The Kimberly Querrey Summer Research Program actively seeks out participants in underrepresented demographics in science and medicine as part of Pulmonary and Critical Care’s broader commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Of this year’s interns, 79 percent identified as women and 39 percent came from populations that are underrepresented in medicine and science.
Year after year, the program uses didactic and experiential learning to help students build a stronger scientific foundation through critical thinking and exploration. At the same time, the program helps solidify a desire to grow in the field for students including Mia Mendoza, a senior at Walter Payton College Preparatory High School in Chicago who was an intern in this year’s program.
“I was taught to appreciate and realize my potential to have a future in science. I have never been so enthusiastic about the field. It makes all the difference to have mentors in science who believe in me, and who made me feel confident and entirely immersed in the subject I researched,” Mendoza said.
This article was originally published in the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine News Center on October 28, 2022.
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