Skip to main content

Meet the 2023 MSTP Summer Scholars

Posted by on Saturday, June 24, 2023 in Uncategorized .

This summer the Vanderbilt MSTP is hosting 6 undergraduate MSTP Summer Scholars. This summer program is designed to expose students from diverse backgrounds to the career of a physician-scientist and help prepare them to apply to MD/PhD programs. These students are on campus for 9 weeks completing a research project and gaining clinical shadowing experience. In addition, they have many opportunities to connect with and learn from current MSTP students, the MSTP Leadership Team, and Vanderbilt physician-scientists. Get to know a bit more about these students below and say “hi” when you see them around campus!


Adrian Aligwekwe
Undergraduate Institution: North Carolina State University
Year: Rising Senior
Major: Biomedical Engineering
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina
What are you working on this summer? I am working with Dr. Craig Duvall on developing a cationic polymer binding strategy for the delivery of SiRNA via balloon catheters to block the development of intimal hyperplasia.
Fun fact: I am part of a flag football league.



Elijah Burks
Undergraduate Institution: Tulane University
Year: Rising Sophomore
Major: Cellular and Molecular Biology
Hometown: Shreveport, LA
What are you working on this summer? I am working with Dr. Janet Markle researching CTLA-4 transendocytosis in relation to CTLA-4 Haploinsufficiency.
Fun fact: I was named one of the top 40 scientists in the country!



Leila Ghaffari
Undergraduate Institution: University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Year: Rising Senior
Major: Biological Sciences
Hometown: Frederick Maryland
What are you working on this summer? I am working with Dr. Doug Ruderfer in biomedical informatics applied to psychiatry
Fun fact: I sing and play 4 instruments



Briana Harness
Undergraduate Institution: Western Kentucky University
Year: Rising Senior
Major: Biochemistry Major and Biophysics minor
Hometown: Elizabethtown, Kentucky
What are you working on this summer? This summer I will be working with Dr.Behringer to understand the evolutionary and ecological role of E.coli and Lactobacillus  in the GI and urinary tract.
Fun fact: I played clarinet for about 10 years and was a soloist in my high school’s marching band.


Andrea Mancia
Undergraduate Institution: Emory University
Year: Rising Senior
Major: Chemistry Major and Dance Minor
Hometown: Sharpsburg, Georgia
What are you working on this summer?  I am working in Dr. Raymond Blind’s lab performing structural biology research for the steroidogenic factor 1 (SF-1) protein.
Fun fact: I am a trained dancer in classical ballet and modern and have recently started boxing!


Jaela Melton
Undergraduate Institution: North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University 
Year: Rising Senior
Major: Biology
Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana
What are you working on this summer? I am working in the Calipari Lab, which focuses on underlying neurocircuitry of reward, motivation and associative learning. Under the mentorship of Stephanie Cajijas, I am contributing to a project focusing on the relationship between dopamine levels and negative reinforcement.
Fun fact: I enjoy crocheting and sewing clothes.