Image showing a Mayo Clinic SPARK Research Mentorship Program scholar with researchers.

SPARK scholar Timothy Kellett (2017), a Florida State University student, joined Mayo Clinic as a technician and employee. During the summer of 2019, Tim worked in the same research laboratory where he trained as a SPARK scholar under the mentorship of Aneel Paulus, M.D., M.S., and Alak Manna, Ph.D. Left to right: John A. Copland III, Ph.D., SPARK faculty director; Sharon R. Collins, former SPARK program director; Tim; Dr. Manna; and Dr. Paulus.

Our Research Mentors

The ultimate aim of SPARK's distinctive mentor-based model is to nurture enthusiasm for research among talented high schoolers. Physician-scientists at Mayo Clinic in Florida who act as mentors and role models are dedicated to ensuring that SPARK student scholars have hands-on experience in their research labs investigating a range of topics, including novel therapeutic targets, cancer metastasis, nanomedicine, neuroscience, immunology and much more.

Laboratories and scientists who participate in the SPARK Research Mentorship Program are:

Panagiotis (Panos) Z. Anastasiadis, Ph.D.

In his Cell Adhesion and Metastasis Laboratory, Dr. Anastasiadis studies cancer biology, with an ultimate goal of developing new therapies that can control the progression and spread of tumors. Read more about Dr. Anastasiadis.

Kaisorn L. Chaichana, M.D.

In his Metastatic Brain Cancer Laboratory, Dr. Chaichana explores the causes of metastasis in brain cancer to advance leading-edge treatment strategies. Read more about Dr. Chaichana.

Nilufer Ertekin-Taner, M.D., Ph.D.

In her Genetics of Alzheimer's Disease and Endophenotypes Laboratory, Dr. Ertekin-Taner works to elucidate the complex genetics of Alzheimer's disease through discovery and characterization of genetic factors that influence risk and modulate biological quantitative phenotypes (endophenotypes), such as gene expression levels and cognition. Read more about Dr. Ertekin-Taner.

DeLisa Fairweather, Ph.D.; Katelyn A. Bruno, Ph.D.

In her Translational Cardiovascular Disease Research Laboratory, Dr. Fairweather, in collaboration with Dr. Bruno, studies the identification of biomarkers that can be used as diagnostic and therapeutic targets for cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases. Read more about Dr. Fairweather and Dr. Bruno.

Baoan Ji, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Ji's work focuses on pancreatic diseases and conditions. In particular, he studies novel therapeutic and prevention strategies for pancreatic inflammation and cancer, including Ras signaling and Aurora kinase A. Read more about Dr. Ji.

Takahisa Kanekiyo, M.D., Ph.D. and James F. Meschia, M.D.

Dr. Kanekiyo and co-mentor Dr. Meschia study neurodegenerative diseases and neurovascular diseases, including aging, ischemic stroke, vascular cognitive impairment, Alzheimer's disease, and apolipoprotein E (APOE) and APOE receptors. Read more about Dr. Kanekiyo and Dr. Meschia.

Keith L. Knutson, Ph.D.

Dr. Knutson studies immunology and immunotherapy of breast cancer and ovarian cancer, with a focus on basic, translational and clinical application of vaccines for treatment and prevention. Read more about Dr. Knutson.

Debabrata (Dev) Mukhopadhyay, Ph.D.

In his Tumor Angiogenesis and Vascular Biology Laboratory, Dr. Mukhopadhyay investigates the role of angiogenesis-related factors in tumor formation and development of cardiovascular diseases, with a goal of improving early detection of cancer and developing better treatment options for patients with cancer or cardiovascular disease. Read more about Dr. Mukhopadhyay.

Aneel Paulus, M.D., M.S.

As a translational scientist, Dr. Paulus conducts scientific investigations that address the clinical challenges faced by patients with hematologic cancers. His research focuses on the biomolecular and immunological mechanisms associated with drug resistance in B cell cancers. Read more about Dr. Paulus.

Hong Qin, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Qin is developing new strategies to overcome hurdles preventing the curative potential of immunotherapy for patients with cancer. His core research interest lies in the translational development of novel immunotherapies against blood cancer, including cancer vaccines, antibody therapies and adoptive chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell therapy.

Dr. Qin's research discoveries have led to translational development of a lymphoma vaccine that has been tested in humans, unique antibody-based therapeutics targeting blood cancer and the tumor immune microenvironment, and a novel CAR‐T cell therapy that's currently on its way to a first‐in‐human clinical trial treating patients with leukemia. Dr. Qin's research aims at discovery of new therapeutic targets for advancing cancer immunotherapy. Read more about Dr. Hong Qin.

Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa, M.D. and Rachel Sarabia Estrada, D.V.M., Ph.D.

In his Brain Tumor Stem Cell Research Laboratory, Dr. Quinones-Hinojosa focuses on elucidating molecular and cellular pathways involved in the progression of tumors arising in the central nervous system, in particular glioblastoma. Read more about Dr. Quinones-Hinojosa.

Dr. Sarabia Estrada studies spine tumors and regeneration, with a focus on developing experimental models of metastatic and uncommon tumors of the spine and brain. She's interested in targeting tumor sites using cell therapy in combination with chemotherapy and focal radiation, and studying how tumors affect motor and sensorial behavior in disease models. Read more about Dr. Sarabia Estrada.

Peter Storz, Ph.D.

In his Tumor Development, Immunology and Progression Laboratory, Dr. Storz investigates the cellular signaling and cross-talk mechanisms that contribute to the tumorigenesis and aggressiveness of pancreatic cancer and invasive breast cancer. Read more about Dr. Storz.