Anna Oprescu, a Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) senior, knows how to focus.
Oprescu is spending her summer at the renowned Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., on an undergraduate research fellowship in neuroimmunology. She is part of a research team that is gathering microscopic immunofluorescent data to help identify the target of a certain antibody, Novel Enteric Auto-Antibody-1 (NEAA-1), which is frequently linked to gastrointestinal problems.
She hopes the summer research experience will help her fulfill her goal of becoming a doctor.
“When you apply to medical school, you want to focus on having a lot of patient experience,” said Oprescu, a psychology major who spent last summer volunteering at Bellevue Hospital in New York. “But having research experience that caters to your interest definitely makes you a better-equipped candidate.”
Oprescu was among 94 students chosen from a national pool of more than 730 students to intern at the clinic, one of the nation’s leading medical facilities and research institutes. Under the tutelage of a physician and a professor at the clinic, she is working to discover what NEAA-1 is targeting inside the gastrointestinal tract.
Oprescu is one of Fordham’s summer Campion Scholars, sponsored by the St. Edmund Campion Institute. The institute is charged with assisting students in their pursuit of prestigious awards and fellowships.
Her interest in research, she said, developed through her experience at FCLC, where she spent a summer studying protein levels in snails exposed to differing thermal habitats.
“From that I became interested in the clinical aspect,” she said.
Her Fordham experience became a jumping-off point for research that contains a human component, she said. The work she is doing at the clinic could help in the development of new treatments for certain autoimmune diseases, such as gastrointestinal and spinal cord ailments, in which the immune system recognizes and attacks healthy cells.
“I’ve taken the skills I learned at the Fordham lab and applied them to working on this human problem,” she said. “I have learned about neuroimmunology and the intimate connection between the brain and the immune system. I might not find the antigenic target this summer, but the value of [this research]is knowing that I’m working with real patients’ problems.”
Oprescu, who lives in Queens, is a first-generation American of parents who fled Romania under communism. She said she eventually would like to work for the medically underserved, perhaps with Doctors Without Borders.
In the meantime, Oprescu is happy to work with “a lot of bright minds” that make up the clinic’s research department.
“I wish I could stay longer,” she said.