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Final Words: M.D./Ph.D. David Melton Reflects on His Time in the Biology of Aging Track

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Author: David Melton | Category: Final Words... | Biology of Aging | Biology of Aging | June 03, 2015

Congratulations David Melton, an M.D./Ph.D. student in the Biology of Aging track for successfully defending your dissertation on "MiRNA Regulation of Macrophage Polarization."

Please tell me about yourself, why did you pick UT Health Science Center, and your program.

I am a non-traditional student in that I served in the U.S. Navy as a nuclear engineering laboratory technician aboard fast-attack submarines after high school. 

I attended college at 25 years old at University of North Texas where I received a B.S. in Chemistry and B.S. Biochemistry in 2008. 

I chose UT Health Science Center at San Antonio because of the great faculty in the medical school and the well-known research programs (Biology of Aging) that were within my interests.

Please provide a few sentences summarizing your dissertation. What was the experience like for you?

My dissertation explored the temporal expression patterns of macrophage polarization-specific miRNAs. The goal was to discover miRNAs that regulated macrophage polarization and could provide therapeutic targets for the manipulation of inflammation in vivo.

This experience revealed to me the need for careful step-by-step evaluation of experimental failures. That experiment failures are just as valuable as when experiments work as anticipated.

Why are you passionate about your research topic? How did you first become interested in it?

I never thought that innate immunology (specifically macrophage biology) would be so fascinating before I came to UTHSCSA. I knew that I wanted to study tissue repair/regeneration. 

However, the importance of the macrophage in this process greatly intrigued me. Additionally, the complex questions that seek to define the still vaguely characterized process known as aging also peaked my interest while at UTHSCSA. 

The connections between chronic, systemic inflammation and aging have only recently been identified and are hot topics in the literature that unite my primary interests.

What was your best memory during graduate school or what did you learn?

I really enjoyed presenting my research at our Biology of Aging Student Symposium last year. The students and faculty in this track are always excited to support and engage in thought-provoking research questions.

What’s next?

I must return to medical school for the 3rd and 4th clinical years. The next question in my career regards the choice of clinical specialty. Currently, pathology or internal medicine are high on my list of possible clinical careers.

Any advice for your fellow graduate students?

Failure is an important teacher in research. Embrace failure as a component of any research pathway. The most challenging aspect to graduate school is coping with the overwhelming frustration that pervades day-to-day efforts. 

Make time to get away from the bench and further develop your non-science interests and friendships. 

You will find that a short respite can greatly diminish the frustration and allow you to return back to the bench with fresh determination.

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