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UTGSM Advancing Access to Careers in Medicine Scholars Program

About the Program: The University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine’s Advancing Access to Careers in Medicine Scholars Program (UTGSM AACMSP) is an 8-week (June 3 – July 26, 2024) program designed to improve knowledge of and access to careers in medicine and translational sciences among UTK undergraduates with outstanding commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Pending funding the application will reopen in March of 2025

Details on AACMSP eligibility and selection criteria, benefits, requirements, lab placement options, and application timeline are below.

AACMSP participants will engage in full-time, paid research under the supervision and mentorship of translational researchers at UTGSM on the UT Medical Center campus in Knoxville. (Please review the “AACMSP Lab Placement Options” below prior to starting the application.) Scholars will also participate in academic/professional development activities through UTK’s Summer Research Scholars. The overarching goal of AACMSP is to encourage and mentor the pursuit of medical and translational sciences professions by students who face obstacles and/or hindrances to participation in those professions, as well as to increase the delivery of those professions’ services to historically underserved populations. Prior research experience outside a class setting is not required. Read about the 2021 cohort here!

  • Declared or intended major or minor at UTK in a STEM-related discipline
  • Anticipated graduation from UTK with bachelor’s degree no earlier than May 2025
  • Completed a minimum of 12 college credits of biological-based course work by program start date
  • Completed lab sections coinciding with biological-based course work by program start date; otherwise, must have some independent lab experience
  • Desire to pursue a STEM-related career, including but not limited to a career in medicine and medical research

The AACMSP will be open to all applicants regardless of race, religion, sex, national origin, citizenship, disability, age, or veteran status. Preference will be given to the following students:

  • Students who have demonstrated interest in or have experience working with racial and ethnic populations that are underrepresented in the medical profession relative to their numbers in the general population
  • Students who have demonstrated an interest or have experience in working with historically underserved or marginalized populations
  • Students who have overcome substantial educational or economic obstacles
  • Students who reside in or graduated from a high school located in an Opportunity Zone and/or in an historically economically distressed community
  • Graduates of a UTK designated Flagship high school
  • First-generation college students

  • Participation in a full-time, paid summer research project under the supervision of a UTGSM researcher (see AACMSP Lab Placement Options below), with opportunities to continue research activities during the fall and spring semesters
  • Mentorship and exposure to careers in medicine and medical research
  • Compensation at a rate of $11.50/hour, including time spent engaging in professional development activities through the UTK Summer Research Scholars Program, for up to 40 hours/week, for 8 weeks
  • Option for UTK dormitory housing, free of charge, for the duration of the program

  • Unless otherwise stated and as conditions continue to allow, UTGSM AACMSP will run as an in-person program at the UT Medical Center in Knoxville, the clinical partner of UTGSM. In accepting a position with UTGSM, all employees agree to follow the policies and procedures of UT Medical Center, including but not limited to background checks, drug screenings, and vaccination status.  As such, Scholars must be fully vaccinated or follow the appropriate exemption procedure and must provide proof of vaccination or approved exemption in advance of the program start date.  Likewise, all drug screenings must be completed in advance of the start date.
  • Scholars must commit to full-time participation of the complete 8-week program, which runs June 3 – July 26, 2024. Outside of any brief absence due to illness or other unavoidable circumstance, scholars make a commitment to participate full time in the program for its duration. Any extended absence during these dates will result in forfeiture of participation and compensation for the remainder of the program.
  • Scholars will participate in an active research project under the direction of a translational or clinical researcher at UTGSM that they are matched with during the selection process.
  • Scholars will be required to complete lab-specific training modules (including but not limited to UTK Biosafety, Institutional Animal Care and Use, Institutional Review Board, CITI, etc.) in advance of the program start date and at the discretion of their assigned mentor.
  • Scholars will attend and participate in UTK’s Summer Research Scholars Program, hosted by the UTK Office of Undergraduate Research & Fellowships.
  • Scholars will be required to present their research in the fall at UTK’s Discovery Day, with additional opportunities to present at UTGSM.

In the application you will be asked to indicate your top two research placement options. Please read the laboratory placement option descriptions below.  More detailed information on each program can also be found at the UTGSM Research Website here (  In order to better inform your placement preferences, applicants are encouraged to review the UTGSM Research Website and watch the videos on the UTGSM Research site of featured researchers. Your choices cannot guarantee placement within a specified program, but will assist UTGSM in making mutually beneficial placements should you be selected for the program.

  • Molecular Imaging & Translational Research Program – Dustin Osborne, PhD: The goal of the Molecular Imaging & Translational Research Program (MITRP) is to create a multi-disciplinary center for molecular imaging research, education, and development of biomarker applications for preclinical and clinical imaging studies. Our program consists of multidisciplinary researchers dedicated to the advancement of molecular imaging. Clinical research efforts focus on building collaborative efforts between physicians and scientists to develop new imaging technologies and applications that improve clinical outcomes and the quality of patient care. Specifically, we are interested in developing new applications for existing FDA and non-FDA approved imaging compounds. The basic and applied Preclinical Imaging Research focuses principally on the development and characterization of novel radiotracers for the detection of amyloidosis and cancer in collaboration with the Preclinical and Diagnostic Molecular Imaging Laboratory.
  • Vascular Research Laboratory – Deidra Mountain, PhD: The Vascular Research Laboratory (VRL) is a basic and translational research facility dedicated to the study of peripheral vascular disease. The VRL has two primary research objectives. First is to define the molecular and cellular mechanisms leading to intimal hyperplasia restenosis, the most common chronic complication following balloon angioplasty, vascular stenting, and vascular bypass graft surgery. Our mechanistic studies have garnered significant interest toward the advancement of our second research objective, the development of biocompatible nanocarriers for targeted vascular drug delivery aimed at hyperplasia prevention and improved surgical outcomes. Current research in this area primarily focuses of the development of lipid nanoparticles designed for vascular gene therapy applications and their optimization as nanoscale biomaterials for vascular theranostics capable of simultaneous diagnosis, drug delivery, and monitoring of therapeutic response.
  • Laboratory of Regenerative Medicine (Plastics & Reconstructive Surgery) – Tom Masi, PhD; Stacy Stephenson, MD: The Laboratory of Regenerative Medicine focuses on novel approaches for re-growing bone and nerves that have been damaged due to injury. Drs. Stephenson and Masi are particularly interested in healing bone and nerve damage in the arms and legs using carbon-based nanomaterials – structures that directly stimulate the growth of fat-derived adult stem cells to become new bone and nerve cells to repair injuries. They have recently shown that, using these materials, new nerve and bone cells can be generated that might one day be used clinically to repair damaged tissues. The laboratory is also investigating whether new blood vessels can develop within these therapeutic nanomaterials to help improve nerve and bone growth leading to enhanced tissue regeneration. Their long-term goal is to improve care and outcomes of patients by using their own body’s fat-derived adult stem cells to repair injuries that cannot be treated by traditional methods.
  • Trauma, Inflammation, and Diabetes Laboratory (Trauma & Critical Care Surgery) – Michael Karlstad, PhD: The Trauma, Inflammation, and Diabetes Research Laboratory (TIDRL) is dedicated to the study of Sepsis and Burn Injury, Wound Healing, Nutritional Modulation of the Inflammatory Response, Insulin Resistance in Injury, Trauma, Pancreatic Islet Cell Biology, Islet Transplantation, Type I and II Diabetes. The TIDRL has devoted a large proportion of its attention to understanding the inflammation-associated changes that affect pancreatic islets with the overarching objective to discover novel therapeutic strategies that could treat or prevent the initiation and progression of type I and II diabetes. The Lab is also working to create new insights into the complex biology of wound healing in normal and diseased states, including obesity, diabetes, and sleep disorder.
  • Amyloidosis and Cancer Theranostics Program –Manasi Balachandran, PhD: The Amyloidosis and Cancer Theranostics Program (ACTP) has evolved into a multi-disciplinary, collaborative, translational research program focused on the development and evaluation of biological reagents for the detection and treatment of amyloidosis and cancer. The history of ACTP is rooted in the study of light chain (AL) amyloidosis and the development of novel agents for the study, detection, and treatment of this disease. In recent years, the ACTP has both extended its horizons to encompass all amyloid-related disorders and some specific malignancies like multiple myeloma. Our lab focuses primarily on peptides as biological agents for targeting these diseases, both as a means of detection and treatment. The major thrust of the ACTP is developing, characterizing, and translating novel synthetic peptides into the clinic for the non-invasive imaging of amyloidosis in patients by using PET/CT and SPECT/CT. In addition, we are developing novel strategies for the treatment of amyloidosis by exploiting the unique targeting abilities of the synthetic peptides. In recent years, we have also been working on developing novel cell-based therapeutics (chimeric antigen receptor macrophages-CAR-M) specifically for amyloid recognition and clearance.
  • Anesthesiology Research Division – Jason Buehler, MD; Che Solla, MD: The mission of the Anesthesiology Research Division is to advance basic and clinical research aiming to enhance understanding of anesthetic mechanisms and improve clinical care. The Anesthesiology Research Division invites active interaction with the clinical faculty and residents in the Department of Anesthesiology, the Medical Center, the main campus, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The Division provides the bench laboratory skills and equipment to facilitate clinical research projects. Ongoing projects include clinical outcomes research examining different anesthetic modalities to advance pain management strategies in colorectal surgery and in patients undergoing thoracotomies.
  • Oncolytic Cancer Therapeutics – Joseph Jackson, PhD: We focus on the interaction between the human brain cancer, glioblastoma (GBM), and an oncolytic herpes simplex virus (oHSV). We engineer oncolytic herpes simplex viruses to combat glioblastoma, with the impetus on arming oHSV with immunotherapeutic payloads designed to induce anti-tumor immunity.
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology Research – Jill Maples, PhD; Nikki Zite, MD: Our clinicians and researchers work closely on a variety of quality improvement and clinical outcomes projects aimed at improving maternal and fetal health. Ongoing projects include investigations into the impact of improved contraceptive access on teen pregnancy rates, undesired pregnancy rates, and pregnancies in women that suffer from substance use disorders.  Additionally, Physical Activity and Metabolism Laboratory is focused on investigations into maternal metabolic health and its impact on gestational diabetes and maternal and fetal outcomes, as well as studies to help shape metabolic and activity-related clinical care recommendations for women, particularly higher risk women, during and after pregnancy.

Applications must be submitted HERE through the online portal by noon on March 31, 2024. UTGSM aims to notify all applicants of their initial application status by April 14. Students who advance to the final round of selection will be invited to interview with UTGSM’s faculty selection committee. Interviews are tentatively scheduled to run April 17 – 28.

It is the policy of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, that no person shall be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or in any way be subjected to, discrimination in any program or activity of the University. Participation in this program is open to anybody, regardless of race, ethnicity or gender, if they are capable of facilitating the achievement of its objectives. Discrimination based on age, color, disability, gender, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status is prohibited. Any person having a question regarding laws and regulations, or who feels discriminated against, is encouraged to contact UT’s Office of Equity and Diversity, 1840 Melrose Avenue, Knoxville, Tennessee, 37996, (865) 974-2498, or