Katerina Baxter, Varshini Murugesh, and Jonathan Louis are undergraduate students affiliated with the Cancer Center at Illinois and recipients of the 2023 Mayo Clinic Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship.

Two members of the CCIL’s Cancer Scholar Program, Katerina Baxter and Varshini Murugesh, and the CCIL Student Organization Vice President Jonathan Louis were named 2023 Mayo Clinic Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows

Every year, Mayo Clinic hosts undergraduates from across the nation to participate in their Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program. The 10-week program provides undergraduates the opportunity to work at the forefront of biomedical research at one of the world’s leading medical centers, where they conduct research in the laboratories of Mayo Clinic faculty, attend weekly seminars, and test their inclinations toward a career in biomedical research.

Katerina Baxter is a James Scholar majoring in bioengineering and minoring in electrical and computer engineering at the University of Illinois. Katerina works with CCIL Program Leader Stephen Boppart in the Biophotonics Imaging Laboratory. She is involved in the Biomedical Engineering Society at UIUC and has participated in Engineering Open House projects through the tech committee. These projects included anatomical 3D printing and an EMG demonstration, where she presented to younger students and community members. She is also a member of the Cancer Scholars Program, which brings together students from different majors to explore areas of cancer research. As a 2023 SURF, Katerina will be doing research under Dr. Richard Ehman in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Physiology at Mayo Clinic, where research focuses on medical imaging, specifically MRI, and how it can be used for medical diagnosis of different conditions.

Varshini Murugesh is a James Scholar and Clare Boothe Luce Research Scholar majoring in bioengineering and minoring in chemistry at the University of Illinois. She works in the Chemical Imaging and Structures Laboratory under CCIL Director Rohit Bhargava on a digital histopathology project to train machine learning models on Fourier-transform infrared datasets to distinguish between tissue subtypes and diagnose cancer. Varshini is a Chemistry 103 Teaching Assistant, and a member of the Cancer Scholars Program. She is interested in pursuing a PhD in computational biology, where she hopes to use machine learning to model gene expression and regulation, with the long-term goal of working in translational bioinformatics to directly treat and prevent disease. As a 2023 SURF, Varshini will work in the Stem Cell and Cancer Biology Laboratory under Dr. Nagarajan Kannan at Mayo Clinic to investigate the effect of gut microbiota on the metastatic route of certain clonal types of cancer using a computational pipeline.

Jonathan Louis is a James Scholar majoring in bioengineering and minoring in electrical and computer engineering at the University of Illinois. Jonathan works in the laboratory of Prof. Patrick Sweeney on data analysis. Jonathan is a tutor in the Center for Academic Resources in Engineering (CARE). He is Vice President of the Cancer Center at Illinois Student Organization, which serves to educate undergraduate students on groundbreaking cancer research, connect with alumni working in biotechnology and medicine, and connect incoming freshmen classes to research early on in their undergraduate careers. As a 2023 SURF, Jonathan will work with Dr. Connie Chang at Mayo Clinic, where his project will be focused on creating a novel method for single-cell sequencing of influenza A infections.

Congratulations, Katerina, Varshini, and Jonathan!