Andrew Elkinson '20
Finding a passion for research, global experiences, and public health
When Andrew Elkinson ’20 came to UNE to study biomedical science and mathematics, he never imagined his UNE experience would help him find a passion for research, global experiences, and public health.
Andrew has showed an interest in research since his early career as a student. During the summer of his freshman year, he had the opportunity to work in the lab of Dr. Tamara King, Associate Professor of Physiology at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine. Working with Dr. King, other researchers, medical students, and undergraduate students, Andrew’s work focused on understanding temporomandibular joint (TMJ) osteoarthritis (OA), a disorder that impacts the jaw and creates chronic jaw pain. He also worked to discover why women are more commonly diagnosed with TMJOA and are more likely to seek care at tertiary orofacial pain clinics. Together with Dr. King’s research team, Andrew examined whether descending pain modulatory pathways from the rostral ventromedial medulla (RVM) protects males from development of TMJOA pain. He was able to present his work with Dr. King at the Society of Neuroscience Conference in Chicago.
“The research I have performed working with Dr. King has involved osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and temporomandibular disorder. Working closely with Dr. King, we have explored methods of alleviating pain, pathogenesis of pain, and clinical applications of specific drug use, such as risperidone, on the development of osteoporosis and anxiety.
"Students from countries around the world came to the conference to share their research, and that was incredible to be a part of. Whether they were from China, Spain, or South Africa, everyone came together to share their findings on topics such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. It was such a positive experience to see so many people coming together with the shared goal of furthering science and helping others.”
However, Andrew’s trip to Chicago was not his first opportunity to travel as a representative of UNE. In fact, one factor in helping Andrew decide to attend UNE was the vast array of global education programs UNE offered. “I’ve always had an itch to travel. When I discovered that UNE had a campus in Tangier, Morocco, I couldn’t stop wondering what it would be like to study there. I was fortunate to spend the 2017 fall semester on the Tangier Campus, which provided me with an exceptional learning environment. The labs were well equipped, the classes were small, and I was able to take all of the courses I needed to continue my medical biology degree. But most important, meeting new people and learning about Moroccan culture first-hand are experiences that will stay with me for the rest of my life.”
Experiential learning and the opportunity to develop global connections continued to drive Andrew. Working with UNE’s International Medical Missions Club led him to study marine life and corals in Belize, and his experience on a mission trip to Ecuador revealed a passion for public health.
“When I was in Morocco, I shadowed an orthodontist, but in Ecuador, we worked with the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children. Volunteering and giving back, while seeing the work the foundation did there, was really powerful. That experience sparked my interest in public health and my desire to protect and improve the health of people and their communities.”
Having hands-on learning in the field, whether it’s in a lab, or on the other side of the world, has always been essential for Andrew. It has allowed him to put scientific methods into practice and to understand the real human impact of his work. Programs like the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE)*, which Andrew participated in during the summer of 2019, enabled him to go beyond the textbook, gaining real-world experience, while making a real difference in the world. “UNE’s opportunities to be involved in research and global education have allowed me to do something with my college career other than just get a degree,” Andrew explained, “and the travel opportunities I have had at UNE have helped me discover my interest in public health. In fact, I would encourage every student to have at least one global experience because it helps students understand the world and different cultures and are one of the most powerful weapons my generation can have in our academic arsenal.”
With the culmination of his research and graduation fast approaching, Andrew intends to continue to dental school with the dream of supporting public health around the world.
*The Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) at UNE has been sponsored by agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the American Chestnut Foundation, the Gulf of Maine Institute, the Maine Space Grant Consortium, National Institute of General Medical Sciences, Pratt and Whitney, Bristol Seafoods, the US Department of Agriculture, the UNE Marine Science Center, and the UNE Office of Research and Scholarship.