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Alessandra Angelino is a rising senior in the NHS studying International Health. In the summer following her freshman year, Alessandra began working at the Georgetown University Hospital with a pediatric neurologist. Alessandra has maintained this position throughout her tenure at Georgetown, her first major research experience aside from social science research in high school.
Alessandra primarily examines the neurological outcomes of children who have received gastrointestinal transplants. Relying heavily upon retrospective chart reviews, Alessandra has found that preexisting problems such as stroke and developmental delays were more likely to be the cause of neurological disorders than transplants. Alessandra also assesses the influence of immunosuppressant drugs on pediatric neurology. This is a difficult component of her research, as certain drugs may be known to increase the risk of seizure, yet must be administered to improve the prospects of transplantation.
To complete her study, Alessandra and her supervisor hope to involve 75 patients in their comprehensive investigation. The majority of the children studied are from the United States and the Middle East, and they typically suffer from seizures, stroke, and developmental delays. Alessandra recalls that out of 45 chart reviews, eight patients appeared to have complications. She has found that incorporating transplant surgeons in the study has been difficult, as they are wary to prompt negative reviews.
Responsible for obtaining study approval, recruiting patients, and obtaining patient consent, Alessandra has experienced numerous aspects of the research process. In October of 2013, she attended a conference in for child neurology in Texas, one of the youngest researchers present. For those interested in undergraduate research, Alessandra recommends, “Don’t wait for the opportunity to come to you. Take the initiative to seek it out. If you don’t want to do the usual lab research, be sure to check out the hospital. Also, you shouldn’t be discouraged if you don’t hear from anyone immediately.”