Dr Marlowe Eldridge: Mentoring Award-Winning Student Researchers

American Physiological Society Past-President Jane Reckelhoff, PhD, with Dr. Eldridge and the four students from his lab who received APS Bruce Awards in 2017.  Students, from left: Lauren Vildberg, Melissa Brix, Hannah Yoder and Ryan Centanni.
American Physiological Society Past-President Jane Reckelhoff, PhD, with Dr. Eldridge and the four students from his lab who received APS Bruce Awards in 2017. Students, from left: Lauren Vildberg, Melissa Brix, Hannah Yoder and Ryan Centanni.

Every semester for 12 years, Marlowe Eldridge, MD,  professor and chief of the Division of Pediatric Critical Care, has welcomed four to five undergraduate student researchers into his integrative cardiopulmonary physiology and pathophysiology lab.

Students come from a variety of University of Wisconsin-Madison departments, including Kinesiology, Physiology and Biomedical Engineering. Dr. Eldridge says the experience gives undergraduate students a unique opportunity to perform hands-on bench and human research in a diverse laboratory.

Dr. Eldridge’s research broadly involves cardiopulmonary interactions in congenital and acquired heart and lung diseases. His students learn basic cellular and molecular biology techniques such as the performance of cell cultures, Western blots and polymerase chain reactions and also can get involved in physiological studies of lung and cardiac function in animal models and human disease.

At the beginning of each semester, Dr. Eldridge meets with current postdoctoral fellows, graduate students and the undergraduate students to set goals and project timelines. This arrangement allows the more senior researchers-in-training to serve as mentors for the undergraduate students, whose interests may develop further as they spend more time in the lab.

Nine Students Win National Awards

Many of Dr. Eldridge’s undergraduate students go on to present their research at the American Physiological Society’s annual Experimental Biology meeting, and several have won awards for their work.

From 2011 through 2017, the following nine students received the APS’s Barbara A. Horwitz and John M. Horowitz Outstanding Undergraduate Abstract Awards:

 

Eight of those students were also selected for a higher honor, the APS’s David S. Bruce Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research. Both awards come with a cash prize and a certificate of recognition.

‘Understanding Science Beyond the Classroom’

One of those students is Melissa Brix, a UW-Madison senior studying kinesiology and global health who will be attending graduate school next year to become a physical therapist.

This is her fourth semester as an undergraduate student researcher in Dr. Eldridge’s lab, on a team that’s studying the cardiopulmonary responses to exercise in adolescents who were born prematurely. Their work may help determine treatment options and preventive measures to reduce the risks associated with preterm birth—risks that may result in early onset of cardiopulmonary disease later in life.

Brix has learned how to run study equipment and computer programs; record vital signs; track exercise and recovery times; analyze magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans for stroke volume, ejection fraction and cardiac output; and perform quantitative analyses of participants’ heart rate recovery and variability.

She also developed her own research questions, which resulted in her Bruce award-winning abstract on cardiac regulation in adolescents born prematurely.

“My role as an undergraduate student researcher in the Eldridge Laboratory has taught me the skills and knowledge necessary for understanding science beyond the classroom and applying it to real-world experiences,” reflects Brix. “The mentorship Dr. Eldridge and [graduate student] Kristin Haraldsdottir have provided me with inspires me to continue research into graduate school and more importantly into my future profession as a physical therapist.”