Class of 2024 Displays Research Excellence at Scholarly Concentration Capstone Symposium

A student researcher flashes the U hand sign in front of her capstone poster
Article Summary
  • The best research projects from the Miller School Class of 2024 were on display at the inaugural Scholarly Concentration Capstone Poster Symposium.
  • Melissa Blake, M.D. ’24, and Jingjing Meng, M.D., ‘24 won first-place honors for the Best Published Pathway Paper.
  • Michelle Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., ’24 earned the Best Poster award.

The Class of 2024 put their NextGenMD scholarly and research skills on display at the inaugural Scholarly Concentration Capstone Poster Symposium that concluded their University of Miami Miller School of Medicine academic year.

Nearly 150 digital posters were submitted, with 40 selected by the dual-degree program directors and the pathway directors for full display. Led by Peter Buchwald, Ph.D., associate professor of molecular and cellular pharmacology at the Miller School, the 13 pathways of emphasis within the Scholarly Concentration program offer students a structured framework to explore their research interests. 

“We had a nice turnout for this inaugural event, with essentially all students from the graduating class present,” said Dr. Buchwald, who also directs the scholarly concentration course. “This was a great opportunity for them to highlight their scholarly achievements, as the majority of the 40 selected posters are from works already published in peer-reviewed journals or presented at national or international conferences.”

Research Experience Develops Competitive Residents

Research published in the Journal of the American Association of Medical Colleges shows residency program directors, especially those from the most competitive specialties, value student research during the admission process. The Miller School’s 100% final placement rate on Match Day this year is a testament to the medical school’s commitment to producing competitive applicants.

A student researcher presents her capstone poster to Dean Henri Ford
The capstone symposium gives student researchers the opportunity to showcase their work.

“In preparing for a career in medicine, it is essential to be able to understand and evaluate evidence generated from scholarly works,” Dr. Buchwald said. “Our students are developing the skills to understand, evaluate, communicate and conduct research in relevant and emerging areas.”

Overall, the Scholarly Concentration – Final Capstone course requires 150 hours of mentored work conducted during phase 3. A published paper or a 10- to 15-page written report summary is followed by an e-poster research display.

Scholarly Standouts

The 40 selected posters covered topics ranging from biomedical engineering and neuroscience through stroke treatments to biopsy protocols and even Narcan use to combat opioids. 

Melissa Blake, M.D. ’24, and Jingjing Meng, M.D., ‘24, won dual first-place honors for the Best Published Pathway Paper. Their respective projects examined pediatric obesity prevention and opioid interactions with chemotherapeutics in the gut.

A student researcher presents her capstone poster to Miller School faculty
Research experience is weighed heavily by residency programs when evaluating candidates.

Michelle Zhang, M.D., Ph.D. ’24, earned the Best Poster award for “Early Mechanisms of Carboplatin Chemoresistance in Retinoblastoma.” Zhang’s project is the first to provide a comprehensive characterization of early events in retinoblastoma chemoresistance progression and set a foundation for identifying novel treatment.

“This accomplishment is a testament to my wonderful community at the Miller School that established a nurturing training environment to support my scientific curiosity,” Zhang said. “My research project is one of many, and it’s exciting to have so many incredibly bright clinicians and scientists in the Class of 2024 highlighted at the capstone symposium. I cannot wait to see how their careers will flourish.”

Fostering Research Excellence

In addition to the student recognition, two awards were given for mentorship. Ruby Natale, Ph.D., Psy.D., professor of clinical pediatrics and one of the mentor awardees, said the award recognizes her commitment to mentoring.

“This award signifies the importance of dedicating time to the mentor-mentee relationship,” Dr. Natale said. “The capstone program is a great way for students to get a taste of research and balance out their clinical training.”

Kristin Rojas, M.D., assistant professor of surgical oncology at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, also received a mentor award. She emphasizes fostering a research environment that embraces diversity and uplifts all voices.

“I strive to create a supportive and inclusive environment where mentees feel valued, understood and encouraged to embrace their unique identities and perspectives,” Dr. Rojas said. “Drawing from my own experiences navigating the challenges of being a minority in surgical oncology, I offer guidance on overcoming barriers, advocating for oneself and finding strength in diversity.”

Mentorship Award

• Ruby Natale, Ph.D., Psy.D.

• Kristin Rojas, M.D.

Best Published Pathway Paper

Best Poster Awards

• First place: Michelle Zhang, M.D., Ph.D.

• Second place: Roshni Lalwani, M.D.

• Third place: Alyssa Cruz, M.D.

Tags: medical education, NextGenMD, Senior Capstone Course