Research Honors Program

The M.D. with Research Honors Program is available in the College of Medicine for medical students who desire to conduct research in an area of the health sciences in depth. Many students initiate their interest in research through the Medical Student Research Program, which supports medical student research prior to the first year and between the freshman and sophomore years of medical school. The Research Honors Program consists of: 1) selecting a mentor and preparing a proposal on a research project that will be carried out during the course of medical school; 2) ultimately preparing a manuscript which is submission-ready for a peer review journal; 3) giving an oral presentation of this work to members of the M.D. with Research Honors Committee, interested students and faculty members.

The student who satisfactorily completes these requirements will have the notation "Research With Honors" on their College of Medicine transcript and diploma. The program is open to all students (except those entering their senior year without research experience), who are in good academic standing and who arrange, during medical school, the time to devote to a defined and approved research project.

▼   Summary of Requirements for Completion
  1. The student should identify a faculty sponsor and department in which to work during their sophomore year if possible. The faculty sponsor must have an appointment in the USA College of Medicine.
  2. The research project proposal (as defined in the Application) must be submitted to the Chair of the M.D. with Research Honors Committee by the end of the first semester of the junior year. Early submission is strongly recommended. Within 4 weeks of submission of the proposal, the applicant will make a short presentation to the committee describing the proposal and the timeline for its completion.
  3. The student must submit a progress report, co-signed by the mentor, to the committee prior to January 15 of the senior year of medical school.
  4. The student must prepare a manuscript ready for submission for publication prior to March 15 of the senior year and make an oral presentation summarizing the project to the members of the Research Honors Committee, interested students, and faculty members. The committee must approve the completed work as fulfilling the requirements for the program.
▼   The Project
There are no restrictions on the type of project that may be undertaken. The only requirement is that each project contains an element of originality. In those cases where a student participates in an ongoing project, he/she must assume responsibility for that portion in which they are involved. The project can be pursued during the summer months and during senior elective time. Work during the summer may be supported by a stipend but work for which elective credit is received are generally not supported by a stipend. Students are encouraged, however, to seek extramural, research fellowships, if applicable.
▼   Activities of the Research Honors Program

By January 15 of the senior year of medical school, the program participants should provide the committee with a short report reiterating the specific aims of the project and the progress made on each. The report should be cosigned by the mentor. Prior to March 15 of the senior year, the student must provide the committee with the copy of the prepared manuscript and make an oral presentation to the committee, interested students, and faculty members. The preparation of the manuscript and presentation of the work must be completed prior to certification to the Dean that the student has completed requirements for graduation with Research Honors.

▼   Research Honors Program Application Guidelines

A proposal describing the research project to be conducted must be written by the student with the aid of faculty mentor and submitted to the M.D. with Research Honors Committee by the end of the first semester of the junior year. The proposal should clearly define a topic for study which can be completed during medical school. Within four weeks of submission of the proposal, the applicant should make a short presentation to the program committee describing the proposal and the timeline to completion. Project approval is based primarily on the scientific merit of the proposal.

Restrict the prospectus to ONE PAGE, single spaced - to include:


Students should also submit a cover page [PDF] with mentor signature indicating that all training and committee approvals have been secured.

Students will present their project in full at the meeting and we will see preliminary data and have the opportunity to ask any questions.  

▼   Current and Past Participants

Students who are currently in the program or recently have completed the program are shown below.

Class of 2022

Ryan Heslin
Advisor: Dr. Leander Grimm, Jr.
Department: Surgery
Project: "Association of surgical volume on rectal cancer outcomes: a longitudinal single-institution study"

Elise Mann
Advisor: Dr. Natalie Gassman
Department: Physiology and Cell Biology
Project: "The impact of DNA damage on PD-L1 upregulation in ovarian tumor samples"

William McDonough
Advisor: Dr. Wito Richter
Departments: Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
Project: "PAN-selective inhibition of cAMP-phosphodiesterase 4 (PDE4) induces gastroparesis in mice"

Class of 2021

Stuart McFarland
Advisors: Drs. David Weber and Mark Taylor
Departments: Physiology and Cell Biology
Project: "Endothelial Trpv4 Channels are crucial mediators of Ca2+ signaling during endothelium dependent vasodilation"
Residency: University of Mississippi Medical Center, Ophthalmology

Lane McLendon
Advisor: Dr. Casey Daniel
Departments: Family Medicine and MCI
Project: "HPV and HPV vaccine knowledge and attitudes among young adults in Alabama"
Residency: University of Florida, Pediatrics

Erin Schmale
Advisor: Dr. Jonathan Rayner
Departments: Microbiology and Immunology
Project: "Towards the Development of a High-Throughput Immunological Assay to Evaluate Neutralizing Antibodies against Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis Virus"
Residency: St. Vincent's East, Family Medicine

Macy Vickers
Advisor: Dr. Casey Daniel
Departments: Family Medicine and MCI
Project: "Examining Factors Associated with HPV Vaccination Uptake in Alabama and the Impact of Providing an Alternative Vaccination Setting"
Residency: University of South Alabama, Obstetrics and Gynecology

Class of 2020

Dylan Adams
Advisor: Dr. Sarah Sayner
Departments: Physiology and Cell Biology and Center for Lung Biology
Project Title: “Regulation of Pulmonary Endothelial Cell Intracellular pH by Sodium proton exchangers (NHEs)”
Residency: University of Vermont, Neurological Surgery

Michael Marfice
Advisor: Dr. Natalie Bauer
Departments: Pharmacology
Project Title: “Determination and Characterization of Extracellular Vesicle Populations as Biomarkers of the Severity of Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension”
Residency: South Baldwin Regional Medical Center, Family Medicine

Class of 2017

Carmen Lopez
Advisors: Drs. Silas Leavesley and Thomas Rich
Departments: Chemical Engineering and Pharmacology
Project: "Hyperspectral imaging approaches for endoscopic colon cancer detection"
Residency: Tulane University, Internal Medicine

Megan Zak
Advisor: Dr. Mark Taylor
Department: Physiology and Cell Biology
Project: "Influence of oxytocin-induced release of intracellular calcium stores on KCa2.3 channels in uterine smooth muscle"
Residency: University of Utah, General Surgery

Class of 2015

Hayden Hundley
Advisor: Dr. Hanes Swingle
Department: Pediatrics
Project: "Acquisition of toilet training skills in typical and atypical children"
Residency: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Anesthesiology

Class of 2013

Russell Terry
Advisor: Dr. Petra Rocic
Department: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Project: "Impaired vascular smooth muscle cell apoptosis and excessive proliferation in coronary collateral growth in the metabolic syndrome"
Residency: University of Florida, Urology

William Gannon
Advisor: Dr. Hanes Swingle
Department: Pediatrics
Project: "Craniofacial dysmorphism and developmental disorders among children with chromosomal microdeletions and duplications of unknown significance"
Residency: UAB, Ophthalmology

Class of 2012

Luke Wiggins
Advisor: Dr. Petra Rocic
Department: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Project: "Role of matrix metalloproteinases in coronary collateral growth"
Residency: University of Southern California, Thoracic Surgery

Andrew Vincent
Advisor: Dr. Lalita Shevde-Samant
Department: USA Mitchell Cancer Institute
Project: "Understanding the diametric role of NUPR1 in human breast cancer"
Residency: University of Tennessee, Radiology 

Class of 2010

Aaron Mates
Advisors: Drs. Val Grishko and Albert Pearsall
Department: Orthopedics
Project: "Role of hyaluronic acid in mitochondrial function and mitochondrial-driven apoptosis following oxidative stress in human osteoarthritic chrondrocytes”
Residency: University of South Alabama, Orthopaedic Surgery

▼   Research Honors Contact Information

Jonathan Scammell, Ph.D., Chair
Assistant Dean for Admissions
Professor, Comparative Medicine and Pharmacology
Office: Medical Sciences Building (MSB) 992