Three MedSURE scholarship recipients receive $50,000 award to further their research

Scholarship funds summer projects, goals for future doctors, scientists



Students are conducting projects on the immune system’s response toward the West Nile Virus and how cannabis affects rats based on sex.

JOEL KEMEGUE, Evergreen mint editor

The WSU Honors College and Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine offer the MedSURE scholarship every year, which includes a $50,000 grant and an opportunity for Honors students to focus on research.

Junior biochemistry major Evelyn Rowe is doing her project on how the immune response to the West Nile Virus develops in fruit flies. 

In her experiments, Rowe injects flies with the virus, calculates their survival curves and measures the amount of virus in them through a procedure called plaque assays to determine their viral replication rates, she said. 

Rowe said the grant will allow her to focus on understanding the procedures this summer so she can complete the project at a steady schedule during the school year. 

Rowe splits her time between school, working and the cheer team, and the grant will allow her to focus on the project over the summer, pay bills and save up for studying abroad.

“It honestly feels incredible,” Rowe said. “I was going into it thinking I would just be doing the work … the fact that they’re willing to offer me money is awesome.”

Senior neuroscience major Abigail Rossi’s project involves studying the differences in the effects of cannabis on male and female rats. The project is based on a previous study where female rats were shown to have greater deficits in cognitive abilities on cannabis. 

Rossi said that her mentor, Ryan McLaughlin, WSU Integrative Physiology and Neuroscience assistant professor, suggested she look into the previous research when she was looking for ideas for her Honors thesis.

“In general, I have a very strong interest in drug abuse and how it alters the brain, and how it affects people, the lifelong consequences of drug use and exposure,” Rossi said.

Rossi said her original plan for the summer was to go back home and work, but with the money from the grant, she will be able to stay on campus and focus on her project. 

“It put me at an ease of mind,” Rossi said. “It’s comforting to an extent but also really exciting.”

Christine Pham graduated last spring but is still completing her project while taking a gap year before attending the WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine. Her project involves searching for national trends and analyzing the mortality rates in racial and ethnic minorities.

“I’ve always really been interested in public health, and I thought this would be a really good way to get involved with that since we don’t have a major like that at WSU,” Pham said.

Pham was inspired to do the project by a volunteering experience during her freshman year at a community health center where they put up advertisements for LGBTQ+ people during Pride Month. She said seeing them cater toward less-represented populations inspired her.

She said studying and understanding the trends between these different groups and if any one of them comes with particular disadvantages could also help her be a better physician in the future.

“I feel like as a physician I want to help as much of society as possible, so knowing that some people are affected disproportionately by something is something that’s important to me,” she said. 

Pham said she believes that as progress continues to be made, it will be discovered that more of the older research was based on white men or mistreated racial groups. 

Pham said the money from her grant will allow her to pay for housing and bills while also saving for medical school

“It’s really just giving me the opportunity to focus on something that I’m interested in,” Pham said.