INBRE scholars: Meet Carissa Brugman

Image with caption: Carissa Brugman
Carissa Brugman
Twenty-two undergraduate students are spending the summer at UNMC doing research.

They are called INBRE scholars and are part of the largest grant in UNMC history.

Today we feature Carissa Brugman, a junior majoring in biotechnology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

What should we know about you?
I am currently working in Dr. Deb Brown's lab at UNL for the summer at the Nebraska Center for Virology. We are studying immune responses to influenza A virus using mouse models. By looking at CD4 T cell responses to viral infection, we look to provide a vaccine outline to fight against highly pathogenic and emerging influenza virus strains. I really enjoy it, and I am learning a ton!

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Who influenced your interest in science?
After watching my mom work as a physician assistant while growing up, I soon developed a desire to become someone who helps others through my work. I have always admired my mother and her colleagues as they continuously work their hardest for the better of our community, and I knew I wanted to do something to contribute. It wasn't until college that I considered research as a career opportunity. As Dr. Tapprich of UNO pointed out to me, doctors may save hundreds of lives throughout their careers, but researchers can save thousands to millions.

What about science excites you?
The idea of researching, discovering and working hard is exciting to me. I find research fascinating and could see myself looking forward to what every day's work could bring. The thought of contributing to something that could change or even save the lives of many is definitely something that I am passionate about. Ultimately, my goal is to help and seriously impact the most people that I can, and I know I can achieve this goal through science.

Will you pursue a career in science?
Currently, my post-graduate decision is yet to be decided. It is difficult to decide now between continuing to medical school to become a family physician or go to grad school, receive a Ph.D., and continue my career in biomedical research.

Why are programs like INBRE important?
The INBRE program gives undergrads an opportunity to explore the science fields in the lab by providing hands-on experience at an undergraduate level. The INBRE program sets up the students to be successful in graduate school, medical school, industry or any other possibilities.


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The INBRE program

Twenty-two students from 11 different undergraduate and community college programs have joined the Institutional Development Award Program (IDeA) Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE)/ Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network (BRIN) program. The INBRE/BRIN program is overseen by James Turpen, Ph.D., a professor in UNMC's Department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Anatomy, and principal investigator of the $17.2 million National Institutes of Health grant that supports the program.

Established in 2001, the INBRE program was created to expose students to serious biomedical research, build a statewide biomedical research infrastructure between undergraduate and graduate institutions and to strengthen undergraduate institution's infrastructure and increase its capacity to conduct cutting-edge biomedical and behavioral research.

The students, referred to as INBRE scholars, enter the program after completing their sophomore year of college upon recommendation by their college professors. The students are given a two-year scholarship and spend 10 weeks each summer conducting research on either their home campus or at UNMC, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln or Creighton University.

At the end of the summer the students attend the INBRE annual meeting where they will give an oral presentation.