WSU Honors College pre-med students research health and science topics in summer

June 28, 2021

MEDIA CONTACT: Robin Bond, assistant dean of the WSU Honors College, 509-335-4505,

Grant Norton, dean of the WSU Honors College, 509-335-4504,

PULLMAN, Wash.—Tapping their critical-thinking and problem-solving skills and building their resumes, four Washington State University Honors College pre-med students are spending their summer researching topics ranging from a female gynecological disorder to U.S. minority mortality rates, and from cannabis use to infectious diseases.

They are the first participants in Honors’ new Medical Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (MedSURE) held in conjunction with the Honors Pathway Program. That is a partnership with the WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine.

To support their summer work, the students each received funding from a $50,000 grant awarded to Honors through WSU’s inaugural Cougar Cage competition in spring.

“Ultimately, we will use the grant funding to support 10 Honors Pathway, or pre-Pathway, students who wish to conduct research in biomedical fields,” said Robin Bond, assistant dean.

“Research is a remarkable way for our undergraduate pre-med students to understand how scientists work on problems, learn to integrate theory and practice, and clarify their career path, among many other benefits,” said Dean M. Grant Norton.

“The overall impact this grant will have on these future medical professionals will be tremendous. It will extend beyond WSU to our state, nation, and world.”

Honors pre-med summer researchers

The 2021 MedSURE scholarship recipients, their mentors, and project summaries are:

  • Madeleine Harvey, working with Kanako Hayashi to research endometriosis in females and associated pain
  • Christine Pham, mentored by Solmaz Amiri to research data on racial and ethnic minorities’ mortality rates
  • Abigail Rossi, mentored by Ryan McLaughlin to examine sex differences in the long-term effects of adolescent cannabis use on cognitive flexibility
  • Evelyn Rowe, mentored by Alan Goodman to research West Nile virus and insulin dependent infection

Research ties to future careers

Having the award allows the students to focus fully on their research while still furthering their academic pursuits and keeping an eye toward their future. The researchers spend around 40 hours each week devoted to their projects.

Harvey, a junior biology major from Vancouver, said, “The award allowed me to cover living expenses and stay in Pullman to continue the research I began with Dr. Hayashi nearly a year ago. Because I’m considering becoming a family physician focused on obstetrics and gynecology, I find the topic of endometriosis very interesting. I also plan to use the information for my required Honors thesis.”

Pham, a new graduate in biochemistry/pre-med from Kirkland and member of Pathway, is taking a gap year before medical school. Research she conducted in 2019 with Amiri was on sexually transmitted infections in Yakima County and led to a co-authorship on a paper published in an academic journal. Pham was excited to work with her mentor again this year thanks to the Honors award.

She said, “I’m interested in becoming a public health physician, and this summer research is very valuable. It’s important for doctors to understand the data side of the profession as well as the people side.”

Rowe is a junior biochemistry/pre-med major from Spokane whose busy summer also includes practices as co-captain of the Washington State Cheer Squad. Receiving the scholarship made a huge difference because it provided necessary funding to remain in Pullman and continue her undergraduate research while also helping to save money to study abroad next year.

“As a physician, I know I will see patients from many parts of the word as well as all walks of life, so going on an Honors faculty-led trip—possibly to Spain—will help me see and better understand the incredible diversity in world,” she said. “I’ve studied the Spanish language and culture for many years, and I plan to use that in my practice as a family doctor. I also plan to perform surgeries.”

Rossi, a senior neuroscience major from Kennewick, has researched with mentor McLaughlin since December 2019. She agreed with her peers that the Honors award was very helpful and that it supports her career plans.

“It was really important for me and has had a huge impact,” she said, adding she will be able to complete her required Honors thesis because of it. “Being able to work through summer and stay in Pullman has put me that much farther along on my research, so I hope to complete my thesis very soon on the effects of cannabis exposure during adolescence. I also hope to be co-author on a paper about the research.”

Rossi has an interest in emergency and neurology medicine and plans to take a gap year and do some volunteering and gaining more exposure to the medical field between her undergraduate and professional school education.

About Cougar Cage awards

The Cougar Cage competition is a new way for WSU students, faculty, and staff to secure private donor support through the Palouse Club for worthwhile projects that can help build the continued success of the University.

This series explores the first six projects to survive the competition and win funding from the group. The Honors project is one of those selected for funding.

Modeled after the popular TV show Shark Tank, the first Cougar Cage match concluded in March. Future rounds are being planned.