The power of undergraduate research
In high school Fathima Mohamed knew she wanted to go into medicine. She grew up in Minneapolis and focused her college search to the Twin Cities, knowing she might not have the chance to be close to home when in medical school. Mohamed decided on Hamline University — she felt at home during her campus visit and was encouraged by the support Hamline offered her. In her first year, Mohamed was already doing research.
“By allowing a first-year the opportunity to do collaborative research, Hamline introduced me to a whole new world of scientific inquiry,” Mohamed said. “I was able to learn from alumni panels, department lunches and poster workshops.”
Now a senior, Mohamed spent the last two summers doing research at Harvard University. She was paired with a post-doctoral fellow and they focused on understanding neonatal mammalian feeding. The research was designed to figure out ways the brain triggers the feeding behavior. The importance of this kind of project, she explained, is that if this relationship were better understood it could potentially be applied to more complicated behaviors. In her first summer they focused on identifying areas of the brain that help drive the behavior and then focused on how hunger and feeding-related peptides influence those regions of the brain in her second summer.
After helping with the research, Mohamed has worked to synthesize it and report out on their project. She presented the findings at Hamline’s summer research symposium and Minnesota Private College Scholars Showcase, the Feb. 15 showcase held in the state Capitol rotunda.
Her access to research opportunities has been extremely influential for Mohamed. She knew she wanted to go into medicine, but now she is looking to incorporate research into her future career and is looking at combined M.D./Ph.D. programs. She also thinks research can help all students, whether they are going to focus on doing more of it after earning their baccalaureates or not. “With research you learn patience, creativity and problem solving skills,” Mohamed said. “These skills are skills everyone can use in their everyday life. Research can open doors to multiple things you can do with your major.”