My PURM research experience this summer focused on seizures and epilepsy in children, specifically neonates. I worked with Professor Nicholas Abend and his team of neurologists to create a comprehensive neonatal database comprised of clinical and EEG seizure data from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) to evaluate the specific factors that increase a neonate’s likelihood risk for seizures. This database will now be used for subsequent studies of neurodevelopmental outcomes. This research is important because neonates are one of the main populations to experience acute symptomatic seizures and develop subsequent epilepsy. Though seizures can have clinical signs such as shaking, jerking, and staring, most neonatal seizures are subclinical (cannot be seen), and thus only diagnosed using electroencephalographic (EEG) monitoring. EEG monitoring can indicate the location of a seizure onset in the brain, along with the amplitude and frequency of seizures.
Through this summer experience, I learned so much about the clinical research process and pediatric medicine in general. I discovered that there is a lot more that goes into a clinical research project than I had previously known. I learned about the process for gaining approval for the project, reviewing previous literature, creating a database, and reviewing patient charts. Additionally, I will be continuing to help with this project during the school year and will learn more about how to create an abstract and manuscript.
Lastly, I was able to spend time in CHOP where I was exposed to a variety of medical experiences in both the inpatient and outpatient setting. Prior to this experience, I was unsure about wanting to go into the medical field versus pursuing a strictly research based career. Now, after working for Professor Abend and his team of neurologists in CHOP, I understand that these two fields are not strictly separate. Each neurologist had at least one research project that they were pursuing on something that they were passionate about, and now I know that it is possible to have the best of both worlds with medicine and research. This experience has been an amazing way to step into the research world. I now feel far more confident with any future research projects I may take part in.