My Summer in Pathology

Vincent Ni In Lab

Vincent Ni, COL ’25, Brooklyn, NYC, NY

This summer I had the opportunity to partake in the inaugural Pathology & Laboratory Medicine Underrepresented Minority Summer Research (PLUMS) internship at Penn Medicine. The PLUMS internship consisted of conducting an original research project with an experienced mentor in their specialized field of pathology. I specifically interned at the Center for Personalized Diagnostics (CPD) under the director Dr. Jennifer Morrissette. The CPD is a clinical laboratory that performs next-generation sequencing (NGS) on active patient biopsies to sequence up to billion of individual DNA molecules in parallel, detect significant variations, and assist in the oncological treatment of the patient. At this research opportunity, I analyzed the genetic and clinical features of two rare mutations in cancer: SYK in melanoma and CDH1 in prostate cancer.

Before diving deep into the specific mutations of interest, we wanted to analyze the molecular profile of the two malignancies in general. I used CPD’s data to create our own version of a molecular landscape of the most frequently mutated disease-associated variants for each cancer. Additionally, I analyze the tendencies for co-existing and mutually exclusive relationships between mutations in oncogenes and tumor suppressors using Yule’s Coefficient of Association. After some analytics, we were able to find some interesting statistically-significant relationships that may deserve a closer look.

Having access to case reports validated by CPD’s molecular pathologist team and additional clinical data, I was able to analyze each patient’s disease progression and level of severity while correlating that with the molecular data to piece together a story of these relationships. The challenge for me was understanding the diagnostic metrics and common treatments used for each condition. After doing the background research, I was able to summarize and find commonalities within each study cohort.

In addition to our own research projects, we also attend professional development workshops to get exposure to various subspecialties of pathology, including Surgical Pathology, Molecular Pathology, Microbiology, Cytopathology, Transfusion Medicine, and Coagulation. Through these seminars, we were able to get a fuller understanding of what the department encompasses. I especially really enjoyed learning about every aspect of transfusion medicine and might actually consider that as a career in the future.

This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2023 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here

By Career Services
Career Services