2023 Pre-Doctoral Fellowship Award
Institution: University of Kansas School of Medicine
Project Title: O-GlcNAc in Ciliary Homeostasis and Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease
How would you sum up your research in one sentence?
Nutrient metabolism is altered in ADPKD, so I'm studying the role of a nutrient-sensitive post-translational modification on disease progression and the primary cilium, the site of disease initiation in affected cells.
What impact do you hope your research will have on patients?
Ideally, my work will uncover novel mechanisms of disease progression that can be effectively targeted by pharmaceuticals or lifestyle changes. For an often slow, progressive disease like ADPKD, even a modest improvement could produce a profound effect when occurring over decades. And setting aside the results of any potential therapy, I hope that ADPKD patients know that us researchers are always trying, always taking new approaches, to produce the treatments we all hope to one day see.
What are your career goals at the end of the grant period? Five years out? Ten years out?
At the end of this grant period, I will have completed my PhD and returned to the hospital to complete the final two years of my MD-PhD training. Going forward, I see myself in residency/fellowship programs with protected research time so I may continue working on kidney research while training to become a nephrologist. Further out, I will continue to work as both a clinician and scientist.
What inspired you to focus your research in this area?
During my first year of medical school, I had the privilege of being taught by one of the most engaging and passionate researchers I have ever met. It was absolutely infectious. I thought I should at least do a rotation in one or two kidney labs before it was time to start my PhD, and in just two months, I was so pleased with the people, the work, and the prospect of producing something that could help patients sooner rather than later, that I made my decision then and there, barely one year through medical school.
What are the major challenges to beginning a career in kidney research today?
In a word: momentum. Success opens the door to success, so in many cases, the first step is the most difficult. In a world that simultaneously wants more scientists but doesn't always have resources necessary to support more scientists, it can be challenging to get the ball rolling.
Something you may not know about me is…
I never learned to ride a bike as a kid, but I agreed to go mountain biking next week. If this answer made it into the official publication, that means it went well and I didn't sustain any serious injuries.
In my free time I like to…
Exercise, paint, and practice woodworking (mostly with a laser cutter or CNC – can't afford to lose a finger before my surgery rotations).
Follow on Twitter: @MKavanaugh_KUMC