Student Researchers Present Their Work

Long Beach Polytechnic High School student Matlynn Giles summed up her introduction to research at Cedars-Sinai this way: "Behind two ordinary-looking doors are the incredible scientists of the Gottlieb Laboratory, who were all so generous in welcoming us and giving us so much help and guidance about how to handle things in the lab."

Long Beach Polytechnic High School students Ria Nagin (left) and Brittney Hun recently presented their research at Cedars-Sinai as part of a program that matches students with scientist mentors. The students were mentored by Mazen Noureddin, MD, director of the Cedars-Sinai Fatty Liver Program.

Giles was one of 18 students at Cedars-Sinai on Feb. 26 to showcase their research projects as part of the 18th Long Beach Polytechnic PACE (Program of Additional Curricular Experience) Student Research Presentations. The program matches students with scientist mentors and is designed to support young people considering careers in medical research.

PACE is supported by the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), a research partnership funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Burns and Allen Research Institute. Brennan Spiegel, MD, professor of Medicine and director of Cedars-Sinai Health Services Research, was Cedars-Sinai CTSI site co-leader for the program this year.

Since its start in 2001, PACE has helped build a bridge of knowledge and understanding for more than 270 students. This year, Dan Pilloff, PhD, a science teacher at Long Beach Polytechnic, taught the program’s introductory course on clinical research, which was a collaboration between Long Beach Polytechnic, the Clinical and Translational Research Center at Cedars-Sinai, the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (LA BioMed) at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, and the UCLA Medical Center in Westwood.

One afternoon each week, from mid-November to late February, students were mentored for three hours at the participating research facilities. At the conclusion of the class, students were asked to formally present their work to parents, teachers, researchers and faculty.

This year's presentation was co-emceed by Odelia B. Cooper, MD, associate professor of Medicine and director of the Cedars-Sinai Clinical and Translational Research Center, and Mariko L. Ishimori, MD, Cedars-Sinai CTSI site co-leader and associate director of the Clinical and Translational Research Center. In her opening remarks, Ishimori observed that the program first started before some of this year’s students were born. A former mentor herself, Ishimori underscored the program’s success by noting that one of her former students is now in medical school.

The student presentations demonstrated a broad range of topics, including how bronchodilator medications affect exercise tolerance in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and the development of a potential transdermal contraceptive gel for males. Each student discussed their work and fielded questions from the audience after their presentations.

At the Cedars-Sinai CTSI site, three mentors each hosted a pair of students in the program. Christopher Almario, MD, assistant professor of Medicine, worked with Eleanor Jaffe-Pachuilo and Kate Sullivan. The students delivered their report, "Prevalence and Predictors of Symptom Complexes Commonly Seen in Acute Hepatic Porphyria in the Community: A Population-Based Study," which sought to better identify patients at risk for the liver ailment.

Under the supervision of Mazen Noureddin, MD, director of the Cedars-Sinai Fatty Liver Program, Brittney Hun and Ria Nagin presented “MR Elastography Based Fibrosis Correlates With Clinical Liver Events In Patients With Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)." Their report described how they evaluated data from patients to equate changes in the liver with disease progression.

Matthew Cazas and Giles were mentored by Roberta A. Gottlieb, MD, professor of Medicine and director of Molecular Cardiobiology and leader of the Gottlieb Laboratory. They presented "Research Techniques For Understanding The Role Of Mitochondria In Ischemic Heart Disease."

"It makes me want to take this further," Cazas said. "I've been interested in pursuing medicine, and this has helped me understand two paths—clinical and research—and how each plays a role in treatment and discovery."