Danielle Yee was among seven of Illinois' brightest undergraduates who participated in Mayo Clinic’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) this past summer. The Alliance's commitment to this educational program continues to be a popular, competitive opportunity for Illinois students.
Danielle is a senior in Illinois’ Molecular and Cellular Biology Honors Program. As she finishes her undergraduate degree, Danielle is working with Prof. Wenyan Mei in the Department of Comparative Biosciences on research that aims to determine the wave of mouse spermatogenesis at which ablation of the gene hnRNP I creates infertility and leads to colon cancer. She is currently considering graduate study in biomedical research.
Mayo Clinic principal investigator/mentor: Jason Doles, PhD
Department: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Why did you apply to the SURF program?
I am currently considering a career path in medicine and health care-related research and I wanted a more immersive experience that I felt the Mayo Clinic SURF program would be able to provide. What I especially liked about this program was the well-organized structure of it - how there were weekly seminars on current Mayo Clinic research and events to meet other SURF students. The mentorship aspect was really attractive as well - being able to learn from people who are some of the best in their fields is an amazing opportunity.
Are you involved in research in any capacity on the Illinois campus? Is it related to the project you worked on for the SURF program?
I currently work in Dr. Wenyan Mei’s lab in the Department of Comparative Biosciences. The project I worked on at Mayo Clinic isn’t related to the work I do at my lab here, but I’d actually preferred that since I wanted to broaden my research experience.
Briefly describe your SURF research project:
I was in the Skeletal Muscle Wasting and Progenitor Cell Biology Lab in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Research. My project focused on cancer-associated muscle wasting and how tumor-derived factors affect the regenerative capacity of myoblasts under muscle wasting conditions. A lot of my work this summer was characterizing differentiation and proliferation defects in C2C12 immortalized myoblasts treated with conditioned media from two lung adenocarcinoma cell lines.
How has the SURF program changed your perspective of research? What influence has this experience had on your career goals?
Being in Mayo Clinic’s SURF program this past summer has made me more excited about the pioneering research that goes on there. It’s crazy how one lab has the potential to save thousands of lives by developing therapies and treatments for certain disorders and diseases. This experience has definitely encouraged me to become more involved, which is why I am currently considering an MD-PhD degree.
Give an example of one of your favorite or most memorable experiences:
My lab usually goes on a trip every summer and this summer we decided to go rafting after I’d told them I’ve never been before. Paddling down a river in a raft with my entire lab was definitely something I’d never thought I would be doing while at Mayo Clinic, but it was one of my favorite experiences I had over the summer!
What do you want fellow students and/or future participants to know about the SURF program?
You will come out of the SURF program as a better researcher, both mentally and technically. Mayo Clinic’s SURF program enriches your knowledge of cutting-edge advancements in health care research and makes you excited to get more involved. Mayo Clinic itself is an amazing place to make connections, not only with other SURF students but potential coworkers and employers. This program is a unique opportunity for involvement with biomedical research on a professional, full-time, and integrated level, and is an experience that is hard to find elsewhere. I highly encourage anyone who is interested to apply.