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Research as Exploration in Medicine

Saint Louis University School of Medicine’s dedication to expose students to research begins with opportunities for mentorship and time in a lab setting. Students quickly realize the world of possibilities in a career in medicine.

The School of Medicine sponsors three summer research programs for students at different stages of the pipeline to a medical career: the Summer Undergraduate Research Program, Summer Scholars Program for grades 10 to 12, and SLU Summer Research Program Fellowships. The programs allow students to participate in research, develop confidence and network with medical students and physicians. 

Tim Murrell, Ed.D., program director for pipeline development, student engagement and retention, witnessed this during the first year of the Summer Undergraduate Research Program. The 8-week pilot research program hosted a group of four enthusiastic undergraduates who are interested in pursuing an M.D. or Ph.D. program.

“This program provides an opportunity for students to learn about themselves, learn about research and give an extra boost to students who normally would not have the chance because they are underrepresented in medicine,” Murrell said, who proposed and designed the program. 

Clarissa Turner, a SLU undergraduate biology student, was a pilot program member this summer. She and her cohort were each assigned to a different primary investigator, each working on a different project and meeting at least once a week to share developments. Turner researched the genetic insights of two deceased individuals with different presentations of sporadic Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Her experience pushed her out of her comfort zone and allowed her to make connections across campus. 

“The medical school devotes itself to teaching physicians who will provide holistic care to every patient they encounter,” Turner said. “This program helped to connect me to my pre-med identity and further inspires me to become the best physician and researcher I can be.”

Medical students can also participate in research opportunities through a fellowship. The summer research programs are conducted at SLU in its basic science labs or under the supervision of a clinical research project by a faculty member.  

Kathleen Botterbush, (Med ‘26), worked alongside Tobias A. Mattei, M.D., FACS, assistant professor and chief of spine surgery, to research health care fraud and abuse in spinal surgery. Her research allowed her to explore important questions related to neurosurgery, spine surgery, and the intersection of medicine and law. 

As the School of Medicine continues to develop student programs, it will open doors for students at many levels so they may explore and interact with medical research.