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Research internship leads to Health Science presentation for pre-professional student

Jan. 30, 2023

Story by Cheri Ghan / Photos by Cedric Harris

Two people wearing white lab coats that say "MU NextGen"
R. Scott Rector and Nicole Wieschhaus

It is estimated that a quarter of the population has non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and of those people, 20 percent have a more severe form called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH. Nicole Wieschhaus, a senior Health Science major with an emphasis in pre-professional studies, has spent the past three years helping a Mizzou researcher study NASH and its progression in hopes of offering a health plan to help prevent or improve the disease.  

Wieschhaus assists R. Scott Rector, PhD, FTOS, FACSM, associate professor of Nutrition & Exercise Physiology and Medicine, and associate director of Mizzou’s NextGen Precision Health building. In their lab at the state-of-the-art NextGen facility, she works with a mouse model to see how ketones affected liver fibrosis, inflammation and fatty acid synthesis. She also runs tests such as polymerase chain reaction, genotyping and western blots. 

As part of her required Health Science internship, Wieschhaus prepared and presented a poster on her research at Health Science Research Day 2022. 

“I had a great time discussing my project at the research forum and was able to present it to some of my professors who stopped by,” Wieschhaus says. “This experience helped me understand how important attention to detail and teamwork are in the research process.”  

Wieschhaus, who currently is preparing her medical school applications, recommends pre-professional students join a research team to help them better understand the research process. 

“When reading research papers for class, students have more of an appreciation of what goes into a study before publication,” she says. “Students also get access to a great network of mentors when joining a research lab.”