April 11, 2017
UofSC sophomore Olivia Reszczynski has been named a 2017 Mount Vernon Fellow—securing one of just 16 spots out of 950 applications from across the country. During the residential summer fellowship, which begins in June, Reszczynski will be immersed in the leadership development program and start planning a capstone project. Influenced by her diverse undergraduate experience and passion for health, Reszczynski’s proposed project is decidedly public health-focused.
“I'll be creating a program to grow food around campus to donate to low-income families and homeless shelters, helping combat chronic conditions like diabetes, obesity, and heart disease,” Reszczynski explains. “Increasing the health of that demographic will lower the economic cost of paying for medical care for those conditions through tax dollars; I am extremely passionate about overall health and well-being and the idea of preventing conditions before they occur.”
The biochemistry and economics major found a second home in the Arnold School’s Integrative Muscle Biology Laboratory when she was a rising senior at Dutch Fork High School in Irmo. Led by Exercise Science Professor and Chair James Carson, this lab examines muscle activity at the cellular and molecular level.
Dr. Carson and his graduate students have always been extremely supportive of my educational goals and my willingness to present at conferences across the country.
-Olivia Reszczynski, Mount Vernon Fellow
“Olivia sought out my lab independently while a student a Dutch Fork High School, which is quite extraordinary,” says Carson, who has worked with dozens of high school and undergraduate students over the years—mostly through structured programs (e.g., Governors School for Science and Math Summer Research Program, Undergraduate Magellan Fellowship, Honors College SURF Program). “Due to her interest and persistence, we decided to find a way for her to do research in my laboratory outside of the standard structured programs, and with the help of the USC Office of Undergraduate Research, we made it work!”
As part of her high school’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) program, Reszczynski was encouraged to conduct her own research project or reach out to a professor at a local university. Looking for experience in a scientific laboratory, she had contacted Carson.
“Dr. Carson welcomed me into his lab, set me up with a mentor, and I am coming up on my three-year anniversary now,” says Reszczynski. “Dr. Carson and his graduate students have always been extremely supportive of my educational goals and my willingness to present at conferences across the country.”
“Olivia came down to campus regularly after school to perform research in my lab, and she used this research to win recognition in high school at science competitions,” Carson says. “We were very proud of our high school student when she graduated third in her class and chose to attend USC as part of our tremendous Honors College.”
I see today’s student embodied in Olivia, a student who more easily embraces cross-discipline attitudes and knowledge to provide innovative approaches to complex health problems—thinking outside of the traditional box for groundbreaking solutions. Olivia certainly has the potential to provide future innovation to biomedical science and public health.
-James Carson, Exercise Science Chair and Director of the Integrative Muscle Biology Laboratory
Presentations based on Reszczynski’s work in Carson’s lab have included the Carolina Women’s Health Research Forum, Southeast Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine, Experimental Biology International Conference, Southeastern Medical Scientist Symposium, and Southeastern Medical Scientist Symposium. In addition to her other scholarships and awards (i.e., Stamps Carolina Scholar, Palmetto Fellows Scholarship, USC STEM supplement, Junior Civitans Shropshire Scholarship), Reszczynski also received a SURF Grant from the USC Honors College support her research in the Integrative Muscle Biology Laboratory.
“I found the research on cachexia, a wasting condition that develops because of cancer and other pro-inflammatory conditions, fascinating, and I loved the angle of looking at discrepancies of the condition between males and females,” Reszczynski says of her research interests. “I have learned countless laboratory techniques and methods, valuable experience presenting research, and tips on the best ways to read research journals and scientific articles.”
Carson and his team have been impressed with the breadth and depth of what Reszczynski has learned and contributed to the lab. “While we often have had difficulty keeping up with Olivia’s wide range of interests and activities, her ability to work effectively in our laboratory has only continued to grow, and she has an amazing level of research experience and ability for a college sophomore,” says Carson. “Even more amazing is her level of scientific curiosity related to the questions we are asking about the biological underpinning of cancer cachexia, a major cause of mortality in cancer patients.”
Reszczynski plans to continue conducting research in Carson’s lab until she graduates in 2019. At that point, she plans to pursue a Doctor of Medicine or dual Doctor of Medicine/Doctor of Philosophy degrees. Her goal is to connect the latest physiological research with clinical practice.
“Public Health research naturally lends itself to multidisciplinary interactions that can blend traditional scientific disciplines,” says Carson. “I see today’s student embodied in Olivia, a student who more easily embraces cross-discipline attitudes and knowledge to provide innovative approaches to complex health problems—thinking outside of the traditional box for groundbreaking solutions. Olivia certainly has the potential to provide future innovation to biomedical science and public health.”