Two Baylor College of Medicine medical students have been awarded fellowships by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), allowing them to spend a year working on individual proposed research projects. 

Out of more than 100 applications, 66 students in medical and veterinary programs from 34 schools in the United States were awarded fellowships supported by the HHMI Medical Research Fellows Program, a $3 million annual initiative designed to develop the next generation of physician-scientists in the United States.

Baylor students awarded this fellowship are Angad Jolly, a third-year medical student, and Mark Michael, second-year medical student. Jolly and Michael, as well as the other fellows, will have the opportunity to spend one year at an academic or nonprofit research institute in the United States doing basic, translational or applied biomedical research.

The yearlong fellowship gives students the opportunity to solely focus on their individual research that will allow students to further their studies as well as their career path.

Michael will work on designing and developing a capsule endoscope to help screen for esophageal cancer. He will conduct his work at Rice University.

“This will be the first time that I'll have a full year of uninterrupted time to dedicate to a single project,” he said. “I'm looking forward to developing my technical background to be able to realize a working prototype by next spring.”

The goal of his project is for non-endoscopists to be able to perform the procedure in low-resource settings without anesthesia and for GI doctors and pathologists to remotely interpret image results afterwards. “I was interested in doing work related to global health and doing something with my biomedical engineering degree. This project is a union of both those interests,” Michael said.

Jolly will conduct his work at Baylor and focus on exomes of patients with specific cases of premature ovarian failure to determine what is causing the disease. 

“What is so great about this award is that I will not only learn one exciting thing, or do one exciting thing, but I get to work with people who have put out engaging research for years, and with databases that are able to do what most databases cannot, and learn how to use a myriad of tools, all in order to answer questions that help not only women with premature ovarian failure, but also to probe genetic architecture to answer questions about the structure and function of the genome that can benefit everyone,” Jolly said.

Both Michael and Jolly will greatly benefit their studies from their awarded fellowship from HHMI. 

“The HHMI medical research fellowship program is a fantastic way to expose medical students to research,” said Dr. Huda Zoghbi, professor of molecular and human genetics, neurology, neuroscience, and pediatrics at Baylor; director of the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children’s Hospital; and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. “I have had the opportunity to meet many of the HHMI medical student fellows at HHMI meetings as well as other national meetings, and it is clear they all cherish the experience. It opens their eyes to the importance of research in medicine and inspires some to become physician-scientists.”

The HHMI Medical Research Fellows program launched in 1989 and has helped fund more than 1,700 students.