August 24, 2017
Two summers of research at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine helped Heather Mentch, a biology graduate, decide that a career in research was 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 was to identify genes that construct the enteric nervous system (ENS). She also studied 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, "was 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.
"This research experience really gave me an inside look at the benefits of a career in biomedical research," she said. "I also got 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 planned to take a gap year and work on clinical research while applying to medical school.