Lizzy Wicks was a STEM Scholar in 2016 when she interned at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine.  

Where are you from?
Ocean Springs, MS

Where did you go to school? What did you study?
I attended The University of Mississippi and studied International Studies and French, with a minor in Chemistry and an emphasis in pre-medicine.

What was the best part of your internship?
By far, the best part of my internship was the opportunity to be surrounded by researchers working to make breakthroughs at the forefront of medicine and technology. Working in Dr. Anthony Atala’s lab at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) truly piqued my interest in the fascinating field of regenerative medicine. I worked on a project to create miniature models of the brain that would accurately mimic the blood brain barrier and allow for non-invasive studies of various neurological disease therapies or evaluation of neurotoxicity in therapeutics. One of the most exciting possibilities is that through the technology of adult induced pluripotent stem cells, we will be able to use patient-specific cells within our model. While in Dr. Atala’s lab, I was given the opportunity to be an integral part of designing protocols and shaping the research project, which is ongoing.

What lessons did you learn that you would like to pass on to future interns?
I learned that research is a process – it isn’t something that you can do overnight. Though it is time-intensive and takes a lot of trial and error, the entire process is very exciting! To be on the brink of revolutionary changes in science and discover therapies that could one day serve to cure individuals or give them a better quality of life is exhilarating. While the entire process is long and arduous, it is truly rewarding when you see your work making a difference in the scientific community.

What are you doing now?
In August, I began my first year of medical school at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi. The research that I worked on at WFIRM has been written up as a manuscript and is in the review process for publication. This summer I’m planning on working with Dr. Jennifer Elisseeff in Baltimore, Maryland, on a regenerative medicine based project.  

What do you hope to be doing in 10 years?
I should be either finishing my residency or beginning my career as a practicing physician. Right now, I’m unsure of what specialty I would like to pursue, but I have a strong interest in surgery. Ultimately, I aspire to work in academic medicine so that I can continue to pursue regenerative medicine research in combination with my career. At that point, I would also like to be involved in international medical education so that I can utilize my medical knowledge as well as my background in international studies and French to impact those across the globe. In all honesty, I’m excited to see what opportunities are in store for my life in the next ten years!

What is your favorite book and what are you reading now?
It’s definitely difficult to call a single book my favorite! I’ve always had a love of Jules Verne novels and Journey to the Center of the Earth is one of my favorites. I’m currently reading The Art Forger: A Novel by B.A. Shapiro. It is a fictional novel centered on Edgar Degas’ painting After the Bath, which was stolen in the 1990 art heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, MA. 

Tell us a fun fact!
In 2016, I attended the TEDSummit in Banff, Canada and had the chance to sing in the TEDSummit Talent Show accompanied by two ukulele players who I met the day of the performance. After practicing the piece once, we sang the Israël Kamakawiwo’ole version of “Over the Rainbow/Wonderful World” in the show, which included other famous performers who had performed on the TED stage. Thankfully, it turned out to be a hit! Needless to say, it was definitely a moment I will never forget.

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