Prehealth Advising Program

Prehealth student and biochemistry major Miranda Simon '08 talks about how her participation in Clark's Emergency Medical Services program and other opportunities at Clark helped prepare her for medical school.

When you first came to Clark, did you know that you wanted to study science?

Miranda: Yes, I knew I wanted to go into medicine, and originally wanted to major in biology. But, after taking organic chemistry, I realized that I really enjoy learning chemistry and am more interested in the chemistry side of biology. Biochemistry is the best of both worlds.

What kind of research have you been involved in?

Miranda: Last fall I joined Professor Lazo's lab. For the first semester, I was just getting introduced to the lab and learning how to use certain things. Second semester I took biophysical chemistry with Professor Lazo and did a paper on one of the projects that was going on in his lab. Over the summer, through my Traina scholarship, I was able to stay on campus and do a summer of research with Professor Lazo, and he pretty much guided me through that.

There are a few different projects going on in his lab right now. They're all protein biophysics related, basically investigating peptides that are related to human disease. One of the projects is Alzheimer's Disease and there's a peptide that has been found to cause Alzheimer's. There's a skin disease, and the one I'm working on is related to diabetes. It's kind of been something that I've been working on since the spring. I'm kind of in charge with Professor Lazo helping me. You're kind of on your own—there's no specific protocol. It's really helped me develop some critical thinking skills and kind of going with with flow. Actually just working on my own project has been really neat because it's just cool having it be your own project. It's something that you care about.

The peptide I'm working with is called IAPP (Isla Analoid Poly Peptide) and it's been found to be secreted with insulin. In someone with Type 2 diabetes, what happens is that either their cells don't use insulin correctly or they have too much sugar in their bodies. Either circumstance leads to their bodies using excess insulin. When excess insulin is secreted, excess IAPP is secreted and aggregates very quickly. When it aggregates on beta cells of the pancreas, it can end up killing or impairing their function. That, in turn, causes more of the diabetes symptoms.

I'm studying the S20G mutation that's associated with the IAPP. I synthesize that and study it along with the wild type—the "normal." People with the mutation have more severe diabetes and it develops quicker. I found that my results have confirmed the hypothesis that the mutated IAPP does aggregate quicker than the wild type.

I would definitely advise working in a lab early because no matter what you do afterwards, whether it's medical school or going for a Ph.D., it looks good and it's a lot of fun.

Was there anything in particular that made you decide to go to medical school?

Miranda: I got really interested in high school and volunteered at my local hospital. When I came to Clark, I started volunteering at St. Vincent Hospital. Dr. Thurlow has a connection with Dr. Diaz who is the head of emergency medicine at St. Vincent. If you volunteer at St. Vincent for awhile, Dr. Diaz lets you shadow him and then afterwards, he'll write you a letter of recommendation for medical school. That was really fun and that shadowing experience was actually one of the confirming points in my career where I just said 'this is what I want to do'. Not necessarily in the emergency room, but I just loved every minute of it and knew I was going in the right direction.

What I want is the interactions, and that's what has pushed me towards the medical route as opposed to the Ph.D. route. Even though I do enjoy research, it's the personal interaction that I want eventually in my career.

I understand you're co-president of Clark University Emergency Medical Services, a student-run volunteer organization comprised of both EMTs and First Responders.

Miranda: Yes. The fall that I came here, which was the fall of 2005, I took a first responder course. They offer that every fall. Basically, it was a four- or five-week course. After you take that first responder course, you're qualified to do certain basic first responder tasks, not as much as an EMT would be able to do, but in the club, we take twelve-hour shifts and on your shift, you take a radio and bag and you do what you would normally do. You go to class, you sleep, and then when the call comes in to University Police, they radio out to you and you respond. So, we basically just respond to on-campus emergencies. That's been neat because I've been able to step into the actual care provider role where I'm kind of the doctor—not quite the doctor—but I get to assess the patient. We always take the vital signs and do all that stuff, so that's been a lot of fun too. Last semester, I was nominated to be co-president along with another person so that's been a really interesting and fun experience for me.