Iowa State veterinary medicine student named Howard Hughes Medical Research Fellow

Turnbull in lab

Katherine Turnbull, a third-year veterinary medicine student at Iowa State, will conduct research on septicemia as a Howard Hughes Medical Research Fellow.

AMES, Iowa -- A third-year student in Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine has received a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Medical Research Fellowship.

Katherine Turnbull of Claremont, North Carolina, is one of 79 medical and veterinary students selected to conduct in-depth, mentored biomedical research at top institutions throughout the United States. Each fellow will spend a year pursuing biomedical research at one of 32 academic or nonprofit research institutions.

Turnbull has conducted biomedical research at Iowa State since 2015 under Brian Lee, research assistant professor. During her fellowship, she will conduct research at the University of Michigan that can help hospitals diagnose septicemia in a patient sooner than is currently possible. She will study endothelial cells  — cells that line the insides of blood vessels — to see how they respond to septicemia, which occurs when bacteria enters the blood stream.

"We are looking at the DNA that is being transcribed into proteins in these cells at different times after the bacteria has been introduced into the bloodstream," Turnbull said. "If we can determine what proteins should be present in the blood or what DNA is activated when septicemia starts, we can hopefully find a way of identifying a septicemic patient earlier."

Launched 28 years ago, the HHMI Med Fellows has helped more than 1,700 medical, veterinary and dental students establish a foothold in the research world. The program makes a multilevel mentoring approach to help incoming fellows get off to a strong start, make new connections, and access a network of support throughout their fellowship year.

"This fellowship means more opportunities in my career and a chance to network with people who are on the cutting edge of scientific research. I am excited to have a chance to work full-time in a research lab to get a sense of what my future as a Ph.D. student would look like," Turnbull said.

Turnbull plans to pursue a career in comparative medicine, using animal models to demonstrate diseases that affect both animals and humans and develop treatments for both. She will complete a residency in pathology and a doctoral program after she graduates from Iowa State.

Turnbull graduated magna cum laude from Western Carolina University in 2013 with bachelor's degrees in chemistry and biology.

HHMI helps advance scientific research and education in the U.S. Its scientists, located across the country and around the world, have made important discoveries that advance both human health and the fundamental understanding of biology.