Student wows her mentors at Mayo with research achievement
There were backslaps and a few high-fives at Mayo Clinic in Arizona last week, when a 20-year-old ASU premedical junior being mentored at the clinic was chosen to present a research paper at the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting.
Madeline Grade, a biomedical engineering major who is in the Barrett-Mayo premed scholars program, may be the first undergraduate ever selected for the national honor. The program is a partnership with Barrett, the Honors College at ASU.
Stage fright on her part would be understandable. Grade will take the platform in front of a hundred or so professional neurologists to present a project on epilepsy which she completed last summer. To the pride of her mentors, she had three abstracts accepted at the AAN, two as platform presentations.
“It’s truly a stunning accomplishment,” said Dr. Ken Mishark, director of the premed scholars program at Mayo. “We’re so proud of Madeline. She has pulled off something that no one we know of has ever done, and the credit goes to her and to her mentors at the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit.”
He believes it may be the first time that an undergraduate student has been asked to present at AAN. Very few neurologists have been selected for a platform presentation, he said.
“This is a tremendous honor, as only a very small number of abstracts are selected for platform talks as opposed to poster presentations,” said Dr. Katherine Noe, Mayo neurologist who mentors Grade. “She’s an exceptional individual, extremely bright and a real self-starter.”
Grade also is the second author on a paper just accepted for publication in Epilepsy and Behavior. Even more unusual is that she completed her work in a summer internship.
The tall, slender student is a familiar face at Barrett, where she gives campus tours, and at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, where she is president of the student biomedical engineering society. Her energy level and enthusiasm spill over in all directions: photography, music, running, clubs.
Currently she’s recruiting other ASU students for a synthetic biology team, to compete in the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition at MIT in November. She’s also training for a 200-mile relay from Wickenburg to Tempe this month and studying for the MCAT.
The AAN presentation will take her to Honolulu in April, where she’ll present her work on the counseling of women of childbearing age who receive valproic acid, a seizure-treatment medication which can also cause birth defects.
Grade says she loves clinical research, and would like to be both a physician and a researcher. She found her summer internship at Mayo fascinating.
“Research is what drives everything, every change in patient care,” she said. “I went to the hospital every day all summer, and I was so excited about it, it didn’t feel like a job at all. When I went on vacation, I missed it. The total immersion in a hospital environment was really invaluable for me.”
After graduating from Gilbert High School in 2008, Grade had planned to go to Duke or Northwestern, but she was reluctant to incur heavy student debt. When she investigated Barrett and found out about the opportunities for undergraduate research at ASU, she was sold.
“Barrett was a huge part of my decision to come here, and so was the biomedical engineering program. It’s such an exciting time to be at ASU, with all the research that’s going on, all the events and people and experiences.
“All you have to do is e-mail your professors, and they’ll help you get involved in whatever you want to do. Dr. Bill Ditto (director of the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering) is my hero. He has a ‘let’s do this’ attitude, and he gets you pumped up about trying new things.”
According to Ditto, Grade has emerged as a real student leader in the school, getting other students excited about biomedical engineering.
“Madeline’s enthusiasm, creativity and tremendous work ethic continue to amaze me,” he said. “I expect great things from her as her career progresses.”