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MD/PhD candidate Rachel Stamateris named Ruth L. Kirschstein Fellow

This video describes her current beta cell proliferation research

Date Posted: Thursday, January 10, 2019

Rachel Stamateris, an MD/PhD candidate at University of Massachusetts Medical School, has been awarded a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Individual Predoctoral Fellowship for dual-doctoral degree students (F30) from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).   The prestigious award is intended to enhance the integrated research and clinical training of promising predoctoral students, who are matriculated in a combined MD/PhD or other dual-doctoral degree training programs, and who are working towards careers as physician/clinician-scientists.

Rachel began working in the diabetes field as a research assistant in the lab of Laura Alonso, MD, at the University of Pittsburgh.  When her mentor Dr. Alonso made the move to UMass Medical School in 2013, Rachel moved with the lab, subsequently applied to the MD/PhD program, and decided to complete her thesis work in the Alonso Lab at the UMass Diabetes Center of Excellence.

“Who better to learn from than an MD doing basic research,” said Stamateris.  “We had a great working relationship, so it was a natural fit and easy decision to have Laura continue to mentor me during my PhD.”  The goal of the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) at UMass Medical School is to provide highly motivated students the opportunities to develop skills and experience in biomedical investigation and the practice of medicine. It is a rigorous and challenging program, and upon successful completion Rachel will become both a PhD in Biomedical Sciences as well as an MD. 

“Working in the beta cell biology field, after doing some molecular biology research as an undergraduate, has been a good transition to more clinically-relevant research,” Stamateris says.  “Ultimately I would like to do a mix of basic science, clinical research and also see patients in the clinic.”  

For the fellowship she proposed a dissertation research project as well as an integrated research and clinical training plan in collaboration with her mentor, Dr. Alonso.  Rachel’s fellowship award will help to fund her dissertation research, where she will be studying ways to replicate and increase the number of insulin producing beta cells.  The Alonso lab recently discovered that Cdk4, an kinase important for cell cycle progression, is able to rescue diabetes in a particular mouse model, and surprisingly seems to have multiple effects in the beta cell outside of cell cycle regulation.  Further investigation will help them understand how this kinase influences beta cell mass, the production of insulin, and beta cell maturation.  That data could lead to better treatment of beta cell failure in diabetes.

Rachel's fellowship experience is intended to enhance her integrated research and clinical training as predoctoral student.  Over the next four years, this award will help to sponsor her research and promote her development into a productive, independent physician/clinician-scientist.

 

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