Experiencing ‘active learning. active life.’
Dixie State University Students Participate in Research at Stanford
By Erin Hakoda
Last summer, Dixie State University students Makelle Gardiner and Katherine Monday woke up in Palo Alto, California, every day, put on their lab coats, and headed to the Stanford University lab to perform research alongside world-class scientists.
“Sometimes I’d be walking to the lab with Katherine, and we would just look at each other like, ‘Can you believe we’re at Stanford right now?’” Gardiner recalls.
Gardiner and Monday are just two of the nine Dixie State students who have participated in the Stanford University Undergraduate Summer Research Program. Thanks to a partnership among Intermountain Healthcare’s Dixie Regional Medical Center, DSU and Stanford University, at least two spots in the program are reserved for DSU students every year. The perfect manifestation of Dixie Sate’s “active learning. active life.” mantra, the partnership has existed since 2014.
“This opportunity allows our students to build great connections with people at Stanford and see hands-on what it’s like to do research at that level,” Douglas Sainsbury, adviser for the DSU Biology Department and Dixie Pre-Medical Alliance, says.
Each year, the selected Dixie State students engage in cancer, biology, biochemistry, and chemistry research for 11 weeks under primary researchers and patient mentors. Students are directly involved in this research that impacts patient care and medicine.
“Shadowing Dr. Ford as he visited clinical trial patients was a great opportunity for me as a pre-med student,” Monday says of her opportunity to work with Dr. James Ford and the Department of Genetics and Oncology in Stanford’s School of Medicine. “As a registered nurse, I am primarily a bedside caregiver, spending most of my time with patients. It was amazing to be involved in not only the bench research but to see how that translates directly to the care of these cancer patients. That was not something I could have experienced in St. George, so I’m grateful Dixie afforded me this opportunity last summer.”
DSU student-interns are the first and only people outside of Stanford allowed to work in the labs. This access is possible due to the universities’ partnership instigated by Dr. Lincoln Nadauld, director of Cancer Genomics at Intermountain Healthcare. Nadauld, who completed his clinical training and postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University and remained on faculty at the School of Medicine, realized what a valuable asset such a partnership would provide to local students.
“The internship really increased my desire to be a physician and showed me how much effort, creativity, and brainpower is dedicated to solving health challenges,” Gardiner says. “It helped me see how far I can go if I keep working hard and reminded me what real research is like.”
Past students who have participated in the internship have gone on to enter medical school and graduate school related to their research. “Students are often asked about research experience when applying for medical school, so this type of experience is tremendously valuable to them,” Sainsbury expresses. “We’ve worked really hard to build this opportunity for our students and have it provide them with a springboard for their careers.”
Erin Hakoda is a student-journalist at Dixie State University studying mass communication. She is an intern in the DSU Marketing & Communication Office. Erin came to St. George from Hawaii to pursue her passion for writing and public relations. On her time off, she enjoys shopping and dancing.