Time out with T.O. – Global memories

by Tom O’Connor, UNMC public relations


Lance Villeneuve and Elizabeth Blowers 

It’s often said that the college years are the best years of our lives.

Much is learned in the classroom, but it’s what takes place outside the classroom that typically produces the memories that last a lifetime.

For UNMC students, the International Student Research Forum (ISRF) has become one of those memorable experiences outside the classroom.

For the past nine years, the ISRF has given students seeking their Ph.D. an opportunity to see the world and expand their scientific horizons.

“It’s become a world stage for them to present their research and make connections for their future careers,” said Jialin Zheng, M.D., director of the Asia Pacific Rim Development Program for UNMC and one of the organizers of the ISRF, along with Keith Swarts, business services, and Jayme Nekuda, benefits & work life program.

The ISRF brings together top doctorate students from different countries and universities and typically rotates between four countries.

The founding universities include UNMC, Griffith University, Australia, Institute of Medical Sciences at the University of Tokyo, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Other universities may host the forum. In 2014, the ISRF will be hosted for the first time by the University of Southern Denmark on June 1-4.

For Lance Villeneuve, a fifth-year student studying Parkinson’s disease in the laboratory of Howard Fox, M.D., Ph.D., the ISRF has become an annual goal. He’s participated in the past three as a moderator and student leader.

“I formed lifetime friendships with my first trip to Japan,” he said. “I love networking with people internationally and learning about research going on around the world. It’s an eye opener and made me a better researcher.”

Villeneuve grew up in Omaha and went to the University of Notre Dame for his undergraduate degree. He plans to become a M.D./Ph.D. and is in the process of applying for medical school.

For Elizabeth Blowers, a fourth-year student conducting cancer research in the lab of Amarnath Natarajan, Ph.D., Eppley Institute for Cancer Research, the ISRF is “probably one of the best research forums I’ll ever go to.”

“In America, we have our own take on science,” said Blowers, an Indiana native who earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Tennessee and plans to pursue a research career. “With the ISRF, I’ve learned that each country has its own style of science.”

Travel and lodging expenses are covered for ISRF participants — memories are included.

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