Hannah Stillman ’23

University of Colorado, Webb-Waring Center, Aurora, CO

This summer I participated in the Colorado Undergraduate Summer Program (CUSP) through the University of Colorado Medical School. This was a highly informative and career advancing experience. Every week we heard talks from relevant scientists and physicians and talked through complicated case studies. I also worked with Dr. Sarah Clark in her otolaryngology lab, performing immunological research. My work focused on one genus of airway commensal, Prevotella. This genus is highly heterogeneous. When the airways of humans are colonized with some species of Prevotella they exhibited increased clearance of Streptococcus pneumoniae, whereas other species of Prevotella seem to increase vulnerability to infection. I studied how the neutrophil response to Prevotella varies between species and how these differences might explain the difference in host protection. I also explored the effect of dosage, live vs. heat killed exposure, and kinetics. In the future this work could be applied to exploring the genetic underpinnings of this difference in hopes of developing treatments for those at risk for lung infections. This work will also be published by the lab, and I will be a high-ranking author. I was able to conduct my experiments independently, work with my principal investigators to come to my own conclusions and pursue my own ideas. I am very grateful for the freedom I was allowed in this lab and feel that it helped me to grow as a student-scientist.

This internship helped me learn and make connections that will be helpful as I pursue a career as a physician. I have obtained two letters of recommendation, one from my principal investigator and one from the program coordinator, a highly successful cardiologist. These will definitely aid me in getting into medical school or a position in another laboratory. Additionally, I learned many useful skills, such as bone marrow extraction, neutrophil purification and sandwich ELISA. These skills could help me as I continue medical research later in my career. Additionally, my immunological work this summer was my first foray into the field and has sparked my interest, which could be expressed through coursework at Williams or future research interests. As part of this program, I was also afforded the opportunity to speak with the University of Colorado Medical School chief of admissions both in a group and privately. They imparted lots of advice and tips on how to be most competitive in my applications to medical school, which I’m sure will be helpful. This internship has reaffirmed my interest in medical work and research, both of which I plan on pursuing in the future.

I would like to thank the CUSP program, Brian and Helen Fitzgerald P’19, and the ’68 Center for supporting me this summer. Without their support, this opportunity would not have been possible. This was an extraordinary career opportunity, and I am very thankful to so many.