Thompson to Study in Australia

Fischell Department of Bioengineering (BioE) junior Joshua Thompson, advised by Associate Professor John Fisher, has received a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) International Research Program grant. The funding, which supplements his existing HHMI undergraduate research fellowship, will help fund a semester abroad in Australia, where he will work with Professor Anthony Weiss, an expert in regenerative medicine and biomaterials, at the University of Sydney.

Thompson will focus on cell-to-surface interactions, in particular how cells interact with different polymer surfaces through a protein known as tropoelastin. Tropoelastin is the precursor to elastin, which gives skin, ligament, and blood vessels their flexibility. This area of study, he says, will complement his current work in Fisher's Tissue Engineering & Biomaterials Laboratory, where he is currently investigating the cytotoxicity of a polymer proposed for use in bone regeneration.

"My current academic goals include eventually studying to become a surgeon," he says. "This trip will give me the opportunity to continue my undergraduate research in a foreign country, and I'll have the chance to intern at hospitals in the Sydney area in order to gain some firsthand experience before medical school. I hope the trip abroad will give me new perspectives on my current work and open up new opportunities for me when I return."

The HHMI International Research Program grant provides travel reimbursement, a monthly stipend, and access to Thompson's existing HHMI fellowship funds while he is abroad. The competitive HHMI Fellowship program, co-sponsored by the University of Maryland's College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences, supports the research activities of undergraduates working under the direction of a faculty mentor. The program's goal is to give talented students the opportunity to immerse themselves in the investigative process, increase their aptitude for research, collaborate directly with faculty, and strengthen their dedication to a career in medical, biological or life sciences.

Published January 30, 2012