Eastern-Atlantic Student Research Forum Celebrates 50 Years of Excellence

A student researcher discusses his poster presentation with a conference attendee
Article Summary
  • The Eastern-Atlantic Student Research Forum celebrated its 50th anniversary.
  • The celebration included a showcase of the work of more than 150 student researchers from across the United States.
  • Dr. Mark Yeager delivered a keynote address and encouraged students to embrace their self-doubts and use them to propel their work.

For 50 years, the Eastern-Atlantic Student Research Forum (ESRF) has highlighted exceptional student scientific research. This year, more than 150 abstracts filled Schoninger Research Quadrangle, showcasing novel findings from young researchers nationwide.

The University of Miami Miller School of Medicine co-sponsored the forum with the American Physician Scientist Association (APSA).

“We were so proud to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Eastern-Atlantic Student Research Forum,” said Hilit Mechaber, M.D., senior associate dean for student affairs at the Miller School. “This particular conference enables our medical and graduate students to showcase their exceptional work on a national stage, highlighting innovation, leadership and excellence.”

The two-day event opened with a keynote session from Harvard epidemiologist Karestan Koenen, Ph.D., who spoke about the long-term impact of post-traumatic stress disorder and trauma.

Three student researchers in front of a research poster at the ESRF conference
ESRF provides a forum for students to present their research abstracts.

Chalk talk discussions ranged from HIV therapies and chronic fatigue syndrome to tumor suppressor genes. Madison Weiss, research fellow at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, won first place in the basic science talk for her research on the early detection of vascular leakage in the retina. Erin McHugh, M.D./M.P.H. candidate in the Class of 2025, claimed the clinical science honor for her analysis of pelvic surgical treatment of Hispanic women.

University of Utah associate professor of internal medicine Aylin Rodan, M.D. Ph.D., gave the afternoon keynote on her study of ion transport in the kidneys and kidney response to modern diets. The top award in the basic science oral presentation went to Brianna Cyr, a Ph.D. candidate in the Miller School’s neuroscience program. She spoke on inflammasome signaling and cognitive decline. Maxon Knott, M.D./M.B.A. candidate in the Miller School Class of 2026, took the honor in clinical science for speaking about catheters in neuroendovascular procedures.

 “It is a pleasure and an honor to have the opportunity to provide a spotlight for our researchers and help lead this year’s event,” said Kayla Schwartz, M.D./Ph.D. candidate and president of the APSA. “Many students quietly use their free time from studying and the wards to collect data that will make great changes in biomedicine. ESRF is the day to celebrate their sacrifices and accomplishments.”

On the ESRF’s second day, students and residents covered public health topics such as fertility treatments, minority health needs and accessibility barriers. Vankata Telagarapu, M.D., research assistant at the Miller School, won first place for her chalk talk on heat stress exposure and in-vitro fertilization treatment outcomes. Payton Mendygral, bioinformatics analyst and M.Sc. candidate at the University of Miami, concluded the public health awards with her oral presentation on mental health resilience in post-graduate transitions.

In the final keynote, Mark Yeager, M.D., Ph.D., executive director of the Frost Institute for Chemistry and Molecular Science at the University of Miami, spoke about developing effective medicines and giving sound advice to clinical trial participants.

Mark Yeager, M.D., Ph.D with Kayla R Schwartz
Dr. Mark Yeager with Kayla Schwartz.

“Dr. Jeager’s keynote was full of helpful advice to future clinical scientists,” Schwartz said. “I was especially moved by his challenge to embrace our self-doubts, words that are important to hear when starting this career, especially from a prominent physician-scientist.”

The ESRF bestows the Dr. Carl and Barbara Alving Endowed Award to medical students with the year’s most outstanding research achievement.

This year’s standouts were three researchers from the Miller School:

• Marina Plesons, M.D./PH.D. candidate in the Miller School Class of 2029, was recognized for her research on “Implementing COVID-19 Vaccinations at Syringe Services Programs: The IDEA Demonstration Project.”

• Nicolette Schurhoff, M.D. candidate in the Class of 2026, and Nikhil Patel, M.D. candidate in the Class of 2025, received the Alving Award for their joint project, “Prevalence and Characteristics of IPV Screening in the Orthopaedic Hand Clinic Setting: A Feasibility Study.”

“We are honored to receive the Alving Award for this presentation,” said Schurhoff and Patel. “Our project was a feasibility study on intimate partner violence (IPV) screening in an orthopaedic hand clinic. We sought to characterize the various demographics and experiences of our study population and determine the feasibility of implementing IPV screening at first encounter in a busy safety net hospital system hand clinic.”

Tags: Dr. Carl and Barbara Alving Endowed Biomedical Research Award, Dr. Hilit Mechaber, ESRF