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Innovative collaboration

UW-Eau Claire and Mayo Clinic Health System are working together to better prepare the next generation of scientists, innovators, health care providers and leaders. The Blugold Biomedical Innovator Program was designed for students who have the intention to pursue a degree and career path in the health care or biomedical field. These students have the opportunity to interact with faculty, apply for competitive research experiences and network with medical professionals.

UW-Eau Claire and Mayo Clinic Health System believe that these one-of-a-kind experiences should be available to students of all backgrounds and financial situations and so created the Biomedical Innovators, the only scholarship program of its kind. Blugold experiences like this will continue to solidify UW-Eau Claire as the premier pre-med institution in the Midwest, a place able to offer undergraduate research experiences like no other.

Collaborative research

Research is what drives so many members of our faculty, and UW-Eau Claire is considered one of the top master's-level universities in the country when it comes to undergraduate research. Although many universities are known for research, undergraduate students often have a difficult time finding a seat at the table. That's not the case at UW-Eau Claire. We take pride in the fact that we offer remarkable research opportunities for undergraduate students.

These are experiences they wouldn’t be getting at a Big 10 or Ivy League school. They are first-year students working on research on campus, but they also are working with researchers at Mayo Clinic. It’s been tremendous for them and for us.

Dr. Doug Matthews Psychology Professor

Innovator Scholar

Each academic year, 10 students from the Blugold Biomedical Innovator Program will be selected to become Innovator Scholars. Our Scholars will work alongside Mayo Clinic Health System professionals and receive these benefits:

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$32,000 Scholarship

Receive an $8,000 annual scholarship, renewable for up to three additional years. Plus, earn up to $3,000 per summer while working on research.

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Guaranteed Research

Starting your first year, you will partner with a UW-Eau Claire faculty member and Mayo Clinic Health System professional on a research project.

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Special Event Invites

Attend special Mayo Clinic events with senior leaders in Eau Claire and Rochester.

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One-on-one Mentoring

Experience coaching from Mayo Clinic Health System physicians, current medical school students and staff from our Health Careers Center.

Eligibility criteria for Innovator Scholars

To maintain eligibility, an Innovator Scholar must:

  • Maintain a 3.5 GPA, and
  • Take 30 credit hours per academic year, and
  • Remain committed to pursuing a degree and career path in the health care or biomedical fields.

Current research projects

Learn more about some of the research projects that are happening on campus! These exciting projects were made available to our Innovator Scholars. 

Prenatal Stress and Neurodevelopment in Autism

Research Project Summary

How do changes in the environment contribute to brain formation and associated neurodevelopmental disorders? Students in the Carter laboratory investigate the effects of disorder-associated environmental compounds on neurodevelopment and then define mechanisms of action for compounds that cause brain abnormalities. We currently are focused on the neurodevelopmental impact of environmental factors that have been shown in public health studies to correlate with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) prevalence. We use zebrafish in our experiments and assess changes in physical development (microscopy), molecular biology (gene expression), and behavior (motor tracking).

Mayo collaborator: Dr. Ashley Holland, Dr. Scott Schmidt

Faculty Member

Dr. Brad Carter
Assistant Professor — Biology

Dr. Brad Carter
Neurobiology of Alcohol Effects in Aged Populations

Research Project Summary

The number of older people in the United States continues to increase, highlighting the importance of understanding health factors associated with this population. Current data reveals that older people are more sensitive to alcohol’s effects compared to younger people. We have recently developed animal models to study the effect of alcohol in aged animals and have replicated the findings that aged rats are more sensitive to the effects of ethanol compared to younger animals. The current project is a multi-level analysis to investigate the neurobiological mechanism(s) that produce greater effects of alcohol in aged animals compared to younger animals.

Mayo collaborator: Dr. Doo-Sup Choi

Faculty Member

Dr. Doug Matthews
Professor — Psychology

Dr. Doug Matthews


Educational intervention to reduce post-operative opioid use

Research Project Summary

Increasing use of opioid medications to control pain has resulted in increased reports of opioid misuse, opioid dependence, and overdose (Weisberg, Becker, Fiellin & Stannard, 2014) and over prescription of opioid medications have been viewed as the main cause of the opioid epidemic (Volkow, Jones, Einstein, & Wargo 2019). The overreliance on opioids for clinical use transitions to opioid misuse and may lead to illicit use (heroin) when prescriptions can no longer be obtained. Our initial study determines to what extent an educational intervention performed by Mayo orthopedic staff reduces the use of opioid medication for post-operative pain management. The plan for the current study is to determine the effectiveness of the intervention on other surgical procedures such as cubital tunnel release and distal radius fractures.

In addition to working with the collaborative project with Mayo Clinic, students will be invited to join Dr. Jewett’s neuroscience research laboratory on the UWEC campus. Dr. Jewett’s research program utilizes behavioral and pharmacological techniques that are used in drug development. Additionally, several projects in the laboratory are designed to learn more about opioids including one non-human technique that predicts the effectiveness of opioids on pain relief in humans.

Mayo collaborator: Dr. Jose Ortiz, Jr.

Faculty Member

Dr. David Jewett
Professor — Psychology

David Jewett
Developing medical models through 3D printing

Research Project Summary

To improve surgical outcomes, physicians are moving to less invasive procedures that rely on better knowledge of the individual patient anatomy through advances in medical imaging, such as MRI, ultrasound, or CT scans. Technology now allows these data, that are typically displayed on 2D screens, to be displayed in three dimensions through 3D printing. These 3D printed models allow physicians to better visualize what they will encounter during surgery, test different instruments that may be used during surgery, and improve the surgical plan for the individual patient. This project will provide 3D printed models for use in the presurgical process of the Mini-thoracotomy Aortic Valve Replacement program at Mayo Clinic.

Mayo collaborator: Dr. Joseph Wildenberg

Faculty Member

Dr. Doug Dunham
Professor — Materials Science and Biomedical Engineering

Dr. Doug Dunham



At the heart of undergraduate research

We take pride in offering graduate school-level research opportunities for undergraduate students. Made possible as a collaborative effort with Mayo Clinic Health System, our Biomedical Innovator Program aims to prepare Blugolds for success in careers as scientists, innovators, health care providers and leaders.

Materials characterization of injectable therapeutic foams

Research Project Summary

In collaboration with an interventional radiologist at Mayo Clinic Health System-Eau Claire, materials are being developed and tested for separation and protection of healthy organs and tissues during treatment of tumors by freezing or heating. These injectable foams are being tested for stability, mechanical stiffness, and incorporation of therapeutic components such as contrast agents and antibiotics. Testing includes the materials characterization of these foams, testing the foams in physiologic conditions, and animal studies. Undergraduate researchers are critical for creating and testing the foams, collecting and analyzing data, working with our collaborator, and communicating results to a variety of audiences.

Mayo collaborator: Dr. Jeremy McBride

Faculty Member

Dr. Liz Glogowski
Associate Professor — Materials Science and Biomedical Engineering

Dr. Liz Glogowski


Surface-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy of Human Saliva as a Non-invasive Tool for Cancer Diagnostics

Research Project Summary

Cancer now tops heart disease as the number one cause of death in the United States, and it is the second leading cause of death globally. The symptoms of cancer are often not specific and, in most cases, are not apparent in early stages. As early cancer detection is the hallmark of successful treatment, our research is focused on developing a rapid, reliable, inexpensive, and non-invasive method for cancer detection and screening. The student researchers working on this project will be using Raman Spectroscopy to identify cancer-specific biomarkers in saliva samples for the early diagnosis of cancer. In particular, Surface-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (SERS), a highly sensitive analytical tool, will be used for this study. Student researchers will be responsible for preparing samples, optimizing the experimental conditions, analyzing data, and sharing the findings of this study with others in the form of poster/oral presentations and manuscripts.

Mayo collaborator: Dr. Sandeep Basu

Faculty Member

Dr. Sanchita Hati
Professor — Chemistry

Dr. Sanchita Hati


Mapping and quantifying tissue fibrosis

Research Project Summary

Fibrosis is the development of fibrous connective tissue in response to injury or organ damage. Mapping and quantification of fibrosis is a key factor in disease staging and also provides one of the best prognostic indicators of continued organ success. We investigate whether infrared imaging can allow for the rapid mapping and quantification of fibrosis in multiple organs without requiring dyes or stains and furthermore, whether we can extract additional biochemical information predicting rapid fibrosis progression in patients. A high throughput, real-time, Quantum Cascade Laser imaging system will be created for rapid imaging and diagnosis of fibrosis in heart, lung, kidney, and liver tissues. This system will include the ability to map and quantify the extent of fibrosis and include intelligent analysis software capable of automatic flagging of suspect areas. This will be performed as part of a collaborative study on paraffin-embedded unstained tissue that exist in the Mayo Clinic tissue archives.

Mayo collaborator: Dr. Rajeev Chaudhry and others TBD

Faculty Member

Dr. Michael Walsh
Assistant Professor — Materials Science and Biomedical Engineering

Michael Walsh
Using machine learning to identify relationships between complex diseases

Research Project Summary

The human body is a complex system where disease in one part can cause new disease states in other parts of the body. For example, diabetes can cause hypertension, and hypertension may increase the risk of heart disease. Researchers have identified relationships among many such disease states. These relationships may also exist among complex diseases like schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease, and cancer. Determining these relationships are of paramount importance and can be used for presumed diagnosis, early intervention, and the development of new medicine. The goal of this project is to develop a novel and robust machine learning approach to identify possible relationships among complex disease states by analyzing a multi-view biomedical dataset (e.g., DNA and organ images). Our goal is to accomplish the following three objectives: (1) identify relationships between complex disease states, (2) incorporate and propose machine learning techniques for complex disease prediction, and (3) develop software systems and disseminate those to the scientific community for various uses.

Mayo collaborator: Dr. Rajeev Chaudhry

Other collaborator: Dr. Ashad Alam, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana

Faculty Member

Dr. Rakib Islam
Assistant Professor—Computer Science 

Rakib Islam
Using artificial intelligence to diagnose disease

Research Project Summary

Our research involves using artificial intelligence (AI) methods like machine learning and deep learning to diagnose diseases and develop technologies to monitor health. Students in Dr. Gomes’ lab work with big data like CT scan images or human gene sequence text data and use high performance computing to run analyses. Presently, Dr. Gomes and five undergraduate students collaborate with Dr. Wildenberg on developing new AI technology to identify filters in a large vein, the inferior vena cava, in a patient’s CT scan. These filters are inserted to trap blood clots and prevent them from reaching the heart and lungs. Our vision is to automate filter detection with routine CT scans so that radiologists can follow-up on the health of these filters. Research with Dr. Garg is focused on developing an AI-oriented approach to identify pancreatic cancer from patient CT scans. Our vision is to automatically detect the stage of cancer, the disease progression, and the steps to be taken (such as chemotherapy or surgery) to address recovery. Dr. Gomes is also collaborating with researchers at North Dakota State University to analyze human gene sequence information and identify regions in the human genome that play a significant role in cancer progression.

Mayo collaborators: Dr. Joe Wildenberg and Dr. Sushil Garg

Other collaborators: North Dakota State University

Faculty Member

Dr. Rahul Gomes
Assistant Professor— Computer Science 

Rahul Gomes
Mayo Clinic Family Medicine Resident Wellness Study

Research Project Summary

Considering a high prevalence of burnout syndrome in physicians (especially those in early career), we must first care for the providers before providing care to patients. Improved well-being of physicians will lead to healthy workforce in healthcare which naturally leads to an improvement in overall patient care. Among risk factors for burnout, sleep loss is an overlooked factor that impact mental fatigue and burnout. The proposed study utilizes a non-invasive inclinometer device (worn on mid-thigh) to better understand sleep patterns of residents during the week of overnight shifts and their impacts on acute mental fatigue and perceived burnout. Additionally, second part of the study will implement a tailored workplace exercise program as a countermeasure to manage stress, improve sleep patterns, and reduce chronic mental fatigue and burnout among family medicine residents who have extended work hours and overnight call responsibilities.

Mayo collaborator: Dr. Terri Nordin

Faculty Member

Dr. Saori Braun

Associate Professor — Kinesiology

Saori Braun


Genetic Variants and Disease

Research Project Summary - 1

Polycystic kidney disease is a genetic disease, which affects approximately 12.4 million people worldwide (PKD Foundation). A major question in the field is “how precisely does a genetic change (a change in DNA) lead to the formation of cysts?” In other words, which pathways and processes in the cells are affected? In addition, patients develop a range of symptoms, and age of onset is variable. Our lab uses C. elegans and zebrafish as models to understand cystic kidney disease and more specifically to understand how primary cilia, which act as cellular antennae, contribute to health and disease.

Mayo collaborator: TBD

Research Project Summary - 2

Genetic testing of patients with suspected genetic disorders yields a wealth of sequence information that then must be interpreted to determine which variants (differences in the DNA sequence between a patient’s genome and a reference genome) affect the symptoms and pathology observed. This process of variant interpretation is challenging and complex. Our lab is initiating a project to analyze variants of uncertain significance identified during genetic testing to see whether these changes in the DNA result in a change in expression of the gene. Data from this project have the potential to improve patient outcomes by improving the ability of physicians and scientists to decipher which variants are clinically relevant.

Mayo collaborator: TBD

Faculty Member

Dr. Jamie Lyman Gingerich
Associate Professor — Biology

Dr. Jamie Lyman Gingerich




Pre-Med student Grace Cunningham pours liquid into a jar during a UWEC lab.

The Biomedical Innovator program has been an incredible support to my learning journey. I've gotten to shadow doctors at the local Mayo Clinic campus, present research at CERCA and NCUR, and even present our research to elected officials through Posters on the Hill. Some of my best friends have come from this program. It's instrumental to have both peers and mentors cheering you on to overcome challenges and learn and grow.

Grace Cunningham Pre-Med

How to apply

Apply to become a part of the Blugold Biomedical Innovator Program by following the steps below.

Step 1

If you have not done so already, you will need to activate your account. To activate your account, you will need the following information:

  • your username and campus ID (which were sent in an email when you applied or are on your admit letter)
  • birth date
  • last four digits of your social security number, or your UWEC PIN that you were sent in a separate email (if you did not provide us with your social security number)

Step 2

After activating your account, apply online for scholarships on our Gold for Blugolds site. Sign in using your UW-Eau Claire username and password. Once you're logged in, select My Applications from the menu bar. Complete the Admissions Scholarship Application.

If you are identified as a candidate for the program from the Admissions Scholarship Application, you will receive an email from Admissions with additional information regarding selection. An additional essay specific to the Blugold Biomedical Innovators Program must be submitted by the deadline stated within the email.

Current Blugold Biomedical Innovator Scholars

Female students in 3D printing lab

Meet the Innovators

Get to know the students who've been selected as Blugold Biomedical Innovator Scholars. While still at UWEC, their work is already helping build a brighter future in health care.

Learn More


Contact Admissions by email at or by phone at 715-836-5415.