August 24, 2017
Two summers of research at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine have helped Heather Mentch, a rising senior biology major, decide that a career in research is for her.
"I learned more in the first two weeks of my internship than I imagined learning all summer," Mentch said of her first internship.
Part of Mentch's research is to identify genes that construct the enteric nervous system (ENS). She is also studying the genes responsible for passing along many gastrointestinal diseases and identifying what steps can be taken to get closer to a cure.
"One goal," she explained, "is identifying genes that play a crucial role in the structure and function of the ENS. Identifying genetic causes of diseases—such as Hirschsprung Disease (HSCR) and chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction (CIPO)-is important in developing effective strategies of diagnosing, treating and preventing life-threatening bowel motility diseases."
She presented her findings at a student research symposium at the University of Pennsylvania last August.
"This research experience is really giving me an inside look at the benefits of a career in biomedical research," she said. "I am also getting a glimpse at what life is like while pursuing an M.D.-Ph.D., as many of the students in this lab are at different stages of completing this degree."
After graduation, Mentch plans to take a gap year and work on clinical research while applying to medical school.