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Rising Seniors Conduct Advanced Research at Dartmouth’s ISURF Program

August 10, 2017

Laura Lemire
Communications and Marketing
(603) 641-7242

For ten weeks the summer between their junior and senior years, Saint Anselm students Jessica Perkins, Mikayla St. Pierre, and Madison Vigneault conducted cutting-edge, graduate-level research at Dartmouth College through the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (ISURF).

ISURF is a full-time, immersive research experience that not only allows students to perform and present advanced research with experts in their respective fields, but also fosters professional growth, aiding with GRE exam preparation and testing, networking opportunities, and extensive peer review.

Encouraged to apply by their nursing professors at Saint Anselm, Perkins and St. Pierre, did their fellowships at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire as part of ISURF Nursing, a clinical research program specifically for undergraduate nursing students.

With her mentor and nurse practitioner Dr. Bridget Logan of Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, Perkins researched urinary incontinence among female athletes.

"With Dr. Logan's guidance and expertise, we developed an exhaustive literature review that focuses on the instruments used to assess urinary incontinence in athletes," said Perkins. "We also created a comprehensive instrument for assessment that can be used in both clinical and research settings."

Perkins plans to continue the project and complete her senior thesis with Dr. Logan this year. Their goal is to validate the instrument and publish the literature review in spring 2018. However, Perkins anticipates that the work done through ISURF will follow her long past her time at the Hilltop.

"Being part of this program helped me reflect on my goals for the future," said Perkins. "It taught me about the countless opportunities in nursing including working on a unit, becoming a nurse practitioner, being a clinical nurse researcher, and much more. This summer also allowed me to network with nurses, doctors, researchers, and many other health care professionals and to seek their advice on the different educational decisions they have made throughout their careers."

Also part of ISURF Nursing, St. Pierre worked with a child life specialist as part of the program HAPPE (Helping to Achieve a Positive Poke Experience), researching the effectiveness of nonpharmacological, cost-effective methods to make injections, venipunctures, and immunizations easier for children. Her study analyzed methods to decrease pain and distress for infants and reduce anxiety for the family unit and healthcare provider.

St. Pierre said that ISURF "helped [her] develop [her] future in nursing": "I hope to go to graduate school a couple of years after graduating from Saint Anselm College to attain my Doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP) and become a nurse practitioner."

Biology major Madison Vigneault was accepted to ISURF's Bench Science Program, where she spent her ten weeks investigating the protein YpdA's role in bacterial response to antibiotics and other stressors.

"Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is the leading cause of healthcare-associated infections in the United States and result in as many as 11,000 deaths annually," says Vigneault. "The protein YpdA is thought to participate in S. aureus response to antibiotics and other cellular stressors. Researching this protein's role in such a clinically relevant bacteria could lead to combating MRSA infections."

But in addition to her own research, Vigneault particularly treasured ISURF's immersive nature, crafted to foster a professional community amongst the students and professors: "As well as our own independent projects, all 12 program members meet twice a week, every week, for two hours. Meetings have included Journal Club sessions, where we discuss and analyze academic papers in various areas of biomedical research; GRE Prep Classes, to help us prepare to take the GRE exam at the end of the summer; and Professional Develop Workshops, which provide us resources for our next steps after graduation."

For Vigneault, her experience through the Bench Science program at ISURF took her undergraduate research to the next level, giving her the opportunity to stand out to future employers and graduate schools.

"The most beneficial part of participating in ISURF was being exposed to the environment of a graduate level lab. Working alongside graduate students, post-doctoral researchers, as well as senior scientists exposed me to a much more rigorous academic and lab setting," Vigneault explains. "I got to experience what a full time research environment is like and see the high standards expected of graduate students."

As part of the New Hampshire Idea Network for Biomedical Research Excellence (NH-INBRE) Program, Perkins, St. Pierre, and Vigneault will participate in the NH-INBRE annual meeting, presenting their research later this year.

Story by Jasmine Blais '17

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