School of Health Professions

Two health professions students earn Distinction in Research designation

Distinction in Research students
Speech-language pathology master's student Grace Holliday (left) and Medical laboratory sciences master's student Hannah Palacios


For Grace Holliday, a second-year Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology student graduating in May, participating in the School of Health Professions’ Distinction in Research program just might have changed the trajectory of her career.

“I feel like it has opened this whole other world to me that I never thought I would be a part of,” said Holliday, whose research project studies the effect of anxiety on cognition after mild traumatic brain injury, also known as concussion. 

Holliday decided to apply to the program after hearing Rocío Norman, PhD, CCC-SLP, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Science and Disorders, discuss her research on mild traumatic brain injury. Norman served as Holliday’s project mentor.

The Distinction in Research program awards a designation to students upon graduation. Just one first-year student per program can be accepted each year. Among other requirements, students in the program must maintain a 3.5 GPA or better, submit an abstract and be accepted to a state, national or international conference, and present their research during a symposium the spring before graduation.

“The Distinction in Research program allows students an opportunity to expand their understanding and involvement in research while receiving direct mentoring from faculty in the School of Health Professions,” said David Henzi, EdD, FASAHP, senior associate dean in the School of Health Professions.

Participating in the Distinction in Research program gave second-year Master of Science in Medical Laboratory Sciences student Hannah Palacios a chance to explore her interest in research even further. 

“When I was in undergrad, I was involved in some research. I found I loved being in the lab,” Palacios said.

Eloise Dray, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Structural Biology, is Palacios’ mentor.

We studied the proteins involved in DNA repair, and these are super important for avoiding cancer,” Palacios said. “If these proteins are mutated it a lot of the time results in cancer. If we can better understand these mutations, it allows us to develop better therapies for the patients.” 

“I am now considering research in my future, because I really like it,” she said. 

Both Holliday and Palacios have presented their research at conferences and have plans to present again this spring.

Students interested in the Distinction in Research Program can learn more about it here.

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