Faculty Name:
Owen Chan

Internal Medicine

Faculty College:


Project Description:

**This project is a part of the Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR), which provides undergraduate students with an intensive 10-week research experience under the mentorship of a University of Utah faculty member. SPUR 2019 begins on May 22 and ends on August 1. If you are interested in this project, please review all program information on the SPUR site. If you wish to apply to this project, you must apply using the SPUR 2019 application.**

Iatrogenic hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is the most serious acute complication in insulin-treated diabetes and it remains the limiting factor in maintaining proper glycemic control. The brain, and especially the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH), plays a crucial role in sensing hypoglycemia and initiating the physiological “counterregulatory” hormone responses to correct it. However, both recurrent exposure to hypoglycemia and longstanding diabetes can impair the mechanisms that normally correct the fall in blood glucose levels. Our laboratory utilizes a combination of neuroscience (microdialysis, microinjection, optogenetics), metabolic (glucose clamps), genetic (targeted knockdown or overexpression) and molecular biology (qRT-PCR, westerns, immunohistochemistry) techniques to identify the neural mechanisms that are involved in the detection of hypoglycemia and how these central sensing mechanisms are impaired following recurring exposure to hypoglycemia and in diabetes.

Opportunity Type:


Student Role:

Students will have the opportunity to work alongside one of our staff to learn techniques in rodent survival surgery and post-operative animal care. They will work closely with members of our research team to perform glucose clamp and microdialysis studies. In addition, they will also have the opportunity to learn various biochemical assays and molecular biology techniques

Student Benefits:

Students will gain a basic understanding of diabetes pathology and about the complications that arise from insulin treatment. In addition, they will gain a better understanding of the complex brain circuits that are involved in regulating the hormone responses to hypoglycemia and how they are affected by diabetes and exposure to low glucose. In the lab, the students will have an opportunity to learn basic surgical techniques (implanting vascular catheters and some stereotaxic surgeries) as well as how to conduct metabolic clamp studies. Additionally, the students will gain experience in critical thinking and in preparing a scientific presentation. Dr. Chan's mentoring philosophy: I believe that students learn best through first-hand experience and working through a problem. In general, I believe that as a mentor, our job is to provide the students with the necessary background and support to conduct their research, but also to provide them with the guidance that they need when they encounter obstacles. As mentors, I think the best thing we can do is to challenge our trainees to think for themselves and to guide them to the answers they seek and not to give them the answers. I meet with students on a one-to-one basis at least once per week to go over their projects and also have them prepare journal clubs to practice speaking in front of an audience. For their final presentations, I review the presentation with the students individually to provide feedback and then have them present it to the lab for critiques.

Project Duration:

35-40 hours per week, begins May 22, 2019, ends August 1, 2019

Minimum Requirements:

Admission to the program is competitive. Applicants must meet all of the following criteria: 1) be a matriculated, degree-seeking undergraduate student in the Fall 2019 semester (beginning or continuing college career in Fall 2019 and not graduating before December 2019; concurrent enrollment while in high school does not meet this eligibility requirement). Applicants do not need to be a University of Utah student. 2) eligible to work in the United States (If you are a Dreamer (with or without DACA), you are eligible to participate. For more information, please contact Megan Shannahan, SPUR Coordinator, at megan.shannahan@utah.edu or 801-581-2478.) 3) able to commit to approximately 35-40 hours per week of employment at the University of Utah for the entire duration of the program (May 22-August 1, 2019). 4) at least 18 years old by May 21, 2019 (required if you wish to use on-campus housing; preferred if you will not be using on-campus housing). Please note that no previous college coursework or previous research experience is required.