Student Spotlight: Kate Buhrke, OMS-I

Kate Buhrke, OMS-I

Kate Buhrke, OMS-I

First-year ICOM student, Kate Buhrke, contributed to recently-published research on how the expansion of bacteriophages is linked to aggravated intestinal inflammation and colitis. Student Doctor Buhrke conducted this research alongside her mentor, Dr. June L. Round, of the University of Utah.

The study, published in “Cell Host & Microbe,” is available to read at the following link: http://bit.ly/2VSI0sQ

Q: What does this research entail?

A: We studied mucosal immunology and our main focus was intestinal work and the bacteria that live in the gut. It’s pretty well known that e-coli can act as a pathogen, cause inflammation, and exacerbate colon cancer; so we were looking for a way to target the e-coli without wiping out the ‘good’ bacteria. We found that we can use bacteriophages, which are viruses that target bacteria, to kind of go in like little assassins and completely obliterate the bad population, and decreases colon cancer. It’s really cool, but even better is, if you give the viruses before you even have the bad community, the system kind of amps up like it’s ready for an attack. You can’t feel it, and there’s no harm to it, but it just starts preparing itself.

Q: How much time did you dedicate to this research?

A: I was at the University of Utah for a little over two years and I started the project as soon as I got there — so, it’s been a long road. Working with Dr. Round was amazing. Honestly, she has made all the difference for me. She pushes you, she caters to every single person in her lab, and she was so excited for me to pursue medical school and she has really made all the difference.

Q: How does it feel to be published?

A: It’s really exciting. It took a long time. I know it’s easy, I think, to romanticize bench work — to think it’ll be quick. It’s exciting because there are still a lot of open questions and little threads that you can start pulling on to uncover new things. It’s bittersweet. 

Q: Do you plan on pursuing research projects at ICOM?

A: Ideally, I’d love to do clinic-based research. I really like surgery, so something in that realm. Research is really important. Maybe people haven’t had the greatest introduction to it, but it can be really worthwhile with the right mentor and with a project that you’re passionate about. It’s so necessary — how do we fill these textbooks? How do we know what surgeries and treatments are working? We need to be in the trenches doing this.