Student Research Grants

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University of Minnesota Foundation Medical Student Research Grants

UMF encourages innovative research by Medical School students and awards grants to students pursuing basic, clinical, or community-based research interests. The goal of this program is to encourage medical students to conduct independent, mentored, academic research using a protocol of their own design.

Two types of awards are available:

  • $4,000 grants to third- and fourth-year students for 12 weeks of research during free or elective periods. Applications are received three times a year: the first Friday in JanuaryMay 1 and September 1. Applicants are informed of the committee’s decision within six weeks from the submission date.
  • $3,000 grants to first-year students for research to begin during the summer after Year One and to be completed before the end of Year Two. Applications are received once annually on February 15. Applicants are informed of the committee’s decision within six weeks from the submission date.

To qualify for funding, the research must be one of the following:

  • basic science bench research
  • clinical lab research (e.g., evaluating a new biomarker as a potential diagnostic, prognostic, or therapeutic efficacy marker)
  • clinical research involving direct patient observation or treatment
  • clinical research involving patient health databases
  • community-based research involving data acquisition by the student

Students who hold or are pursuing a PhD degree, including MD PhD students, are ineligible.

Grants are paid to recipients as personal income and are taxable.

Program policies and guidelines

The following policies and guidelines apply:

  1. Students in good academic standing who are enrolled in the University of Minnesota Medical School in the Twin Cities or Duluth may apply by completing the Application for Student Research Grant. Applications are forwarded to the Medical Student Grant Research Committee for review. The committee determines who the award recipients will be. 
  2. Projects for Year 1 students ($3,000 grants) must begin during the summer between Years 1 and 2 and be completed before the end of Year 2 classes.
  3. A 12-week project ($4,000 grants for Year 3 and 4 students) need not be conducted over 12 consecutive weeks, but research completed over two or more consecutive rotations will normally produce the most substantive work. The customary maximum for 12-week projects is 6 months. Projects requiring more than 12 months to complete will not be considered. A student may receive up to two $4000 grants for 12 weeks of research provided a full report is submitted for each phase.
  4. A Medical School faculty member must serve as project supervisor. The supervisor will provide guidance in choosing a project and may assist in writing the proposal (although cutting and pasting sections from a mentor’s grant application is not acceptable. See a sample protocol below). The supervisor will also provide, as needed, laboratory facilities, equipment, and supplies. The project supervisor will write a letter commenting on the candidate’s proposal and the candidate’s aptitude, and providing a precise and complete description of the candidate’s role in the project and the nature of the questions to be addressed. The applicant’s role must be clearly explained in the application and be central to the success of the project. A faculty member can only serve as a mentor for a maximum of two Year 1-2 research students ($3,000 grants) at any time.
  5. Projects must be designed and conducted primarily by the student with supervision and input by mentors. They must include rigorous methodology whether laboratory-based, epidemiological or health services-related. Proposals that do not clearly establish that the applicant has a central role will not be funded.
  6. A limited number of $500 Medical School Supplemental Research Awards are available to support laboratory-associated costs of student projects involving heart research or cardiovascular disorders. Off-campus laboratories are ineligible for this supplemental award. To be considered, the student’s faculty supervisor should include in the letter of support a request for a Medical School Supplemental Research Award and an explanation of the project’s relationship to heart research or cardiovascular disorders.
  7. The application packet must include: UMF Medical Student Research Grant Application and accompanying Description of Research Design; student's resume or CV; letter of endorsement from the project supervisor; and a signed letter from one of the following asserting that student is in good academic standing: Micheal Kim, Assistant Dean for Student Affairs; Scott Davenport, Assistant Director for Student Affairs; Christina Oseland, Student Services Specialist; or student's faculty advisor. All materials must be submitted together.
  8. A final progress report will be required from every grantee following the end of the research period. For $4,000 grants the report will be due within four weeks after the 12 week research period is completed. For $3,000 grants the report will be due on the last official date of the student’s Year 2 classes. The report should be submitted using the Student Grant Final Progress Report Form. The responsibility for submitting the final report rests with both the grantee and the faculty mentor. Until the final report is received by UMF, the student will not be eligible for any additional UMF research grants and the faculty mentor will not be allowed to mentor another student holding a UMF medical student research grant.

Apply for a grant

To apply for a grant, read the complete guidelines, and download the Application for Student Research Grant.

Questions about the application process?

Contact Austin Calhoun, PhD, Chief of Staff, Office of Medical Education, calhoun@umn.edu, (612) 624-9473.

Submit a final progress report

Have you recently completed work as a result of a grant made by the University of Minnesota Foundation? Complete our Student Grant Final Progress Report Form.

Sample protocol

Preparation of Activated Anti-Tumor Cells by Dendritic Cell Peptide Presentation

UMF Student Research Grant Application

Jane Doe

Introduction

As the role of the host immune system in tumor immunosurveillance is elucidated, increasing attention is being given to targeted immunotherapy as a promising cancer treatment. It is known that tumors express antigens which can induce host immune responses under experimental conditions. Yet tumor-reactive T cells are rarely found in vivo. The development of cytotoxic T cells depends on the action of activated antigen presenting cells, such as dendritic cells. Antigenic tumor peptides must be presented within the context of MHC class I molecules with appropriate co-stimulatory molecules. It has been hypothesized that the lack of T cell response in cancer patients may result from a deficiency of functional dendritic cells. (1) In animal models the reinfusion of dendritic cells which have been treated with tumor antigens has been shown to induce specific immunity, leading in some cases to a decrease in tumor mass. (2)

The hypothesis to be evaluated with this project is: Can anti-tumor cytotoxic T lymphocytes be generated by dendritic cell presentation of breast cancer peptides? The first goal will be to determine whether immature human dendritic cells derived from bone marrow precursors can be primed with tumor proteins to become mature cells which present processed peptides to autologous T cells. Secondly, the development of T cell cytotoxic activity against the breast cancer targets and IFN? production will be measured to determine whether the dendritic cells can successfully activate specific immunity in the T cells. The work described will be done exclusively by the applicant, with assistance from personnel in the [mentor’s] laboratory.

Goals

  1. Prepare a membrane lysate from an HLA-A2 breast cancer cell line, MCF-7.
  2. Purify immature dendritic cells from the bone marrow of an HLA-A2 donor.
  3. Purify T cells from the peripheral blood of the same donor.
  4. Verify the activated status of the dendritic cells after they have been pulsed with the membrane preparation.
  5. Grow autologous T cells in coculture with the activated dendritic cells.
  6. Determine whether the T cells become activated to proliferate and produce IFN?.
  7. Determine whether the T cells develop cytotoxic activity against the breast cancer target cells.

Methods

  1. Breast cancer cells will be lysed to form a preparation of tumor cell membranes.
  2. Dendritic cells will be grown from bone marrow derived progenitors. CD34 cells will be isolated from bone marrow by immunofluorescence. The stem cells will be cultured with GM-CSF, IL-4, and TNF to induce the differentiation of dendritic cells.
  3. T cells will be purified from peripheral blood.
  4. The dendritic cells will be primed by pulsing them with the breast cancer cell membrane preparation. (4)
  5. The transformation of dendritic cells from immature antigen-capturing cells to mature antigen presenting cells will be assessed by phenotyping with monoclonal antibody staining for CD54, CD40, CD80, CD83, CD86 and MHC molecules. The expression of these cell surface antigens increases with maturation. (5)

References

  1. Chaux P, Moutet M, Faivre J, Martin F, Martin M. (1996), Lab. Invest. 74, 975-983.
  2. Schuler G, Steinman R. (1997) J. Exp. Med. 186, 1183-1187.
  3. Romani N, et al. (1996) J. Immunol. Meth. 196. 137-151.
  4. Paglia P, Chiodoni C, Rodolfo M, Colombo M (1996). J. Exp. Med, 183, 87-97.
  5. Banchereau J, Steinman R. (1998) Nature, 392, 245-252.