Crown College Science Students Honored with IMPACT Gold Award and Mayo Clinic Internships

Crown College is pleased to congratulate two biology majors who received a Gold Award for their research submission to a spring 2016 competition that drew entries from some of the largest and most recognized colleges and universities in Minnesota.

Crown junior Sol Jin and senior Ryan Hershey teamed up to develop a novel hypothesis in response to one of three health care crisis questions posed by Innovative Minds Partnering to Advance Curative Therapies (IMPACT), an undergraduate student program sponsored by Regenerative Medicine Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic Office for Applied Scholarship and Education Science.

Jin and Hershey’s hypothesis addressed the question: What is the underlying cause of Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS)? Entries also needed to identify how progress in regenerative medicine procedures supports the feasibility of testing their hypothesis.

The pair admitted they knew little about HLHS. As they delved into the research literature, both were intrigued by their discoveries about the heart and the surgical methods physicians use to treat the abnormality. HLHS is a rare and complex congenital heart defect. Infants born with it require medication and multiple surgeries with the first operation typically scheduled before the newborn is two weeks old. Without treatment the syndrome is fatal. Survival involves the need for a heart transplant. Its cause is presently unknown.

After submitting their paper, Jin and Hershey attended a symposium along with other contenders in early March at Mayo Clinic, Rochester. They met in topic discussion groups then gave an oral presentation about their research theory.

Jin shared, “I appreciated the opportunity to propose our thoughts. We were told, ‘Let’s have some dialogue. You are the experts’. Before this experience, my desire was to study plants and the environment. Now, I am curious to learn more about regenerative medicine. ”

According to Dr. Aeisha Thomas, Associate Professor of Biology/Life Science at Crown, this was the first-year students from the college entered the IMPACT competition. Thomas served as the faculty sponsor for the school’s four groups who participated.

“It was rewarding working with the students”, she said. “I’m very proud that Sol and Ryan did well. The academic challenge was a worthy one and the exposure to the scientific world through interactions with scientists and other students outside of Crown was very valuable for them.”

Hershey and Jin each receive $1,000 for their top honor. In addition, both will be offered a ten-week summer internship at Mayo Clinic to test their hypothesis with doctors and scientists who are currently conducting research on HLHS.

“As a graduate, this is a jumpstart – a foot in the door – at a very important place,” Hershey noted. “I’m definitely open to continuing research on the heart, especially exploring the surgery aspect of this amazing topic. And since we earned the award, I heard from a friend who’s two-year-old grandson has HLHS. She thanked us for our research which is humbling and motivating.”

The IMPACT experience has provided an educational glimpse into the world of a medical science researcher. Both biologists are excited to see what role God may be calling them to fulfill in that place.