SRI Stories: Shadowing Medical Practices


“At a young age, I witnessed the effects diabetes had on the lifestyle of my grandparents and extended family members,” says Irvane Nelson, a Sophomore at the U and a participant in the Science Research Initiative (SRI).

“As a result, I sought to gain a better understanding of the disease through research to aid in the efforts against diabetes.” 

Before getting involved in SRI, Irvane had the unique experience of conducting research in a lab starting in high school. Working in Dr. Owen Chan’s lab in the Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism, and Diabetes, Irvane was able to foster his interest in diabetes research, and names Dr. Chan his hero and biggest supporter in all his research and pre-med endeavors. 

Reflecting on this early exposure to diabetes research, Irvane notes, “Because of my background in sugar metabolism, I ended up working in a public health research lab to help develop ATSB sugar toxic baits.” His pivot to a different subject model as an SRI student was striking. Under the mentorship of Chris Bibbs, he is currently researching toxicology on mosquitoes, with a primary focus on creating less harmful insecticides. 

But his interest in diabetes continues in his SRI stream, reminding us all that there’s more than one path, ultimately, to find healthcare solutions through pure science. His current projects include studying how the brain responds to low blood sugar levels and investigating the toxicity of a substance called erythritol on Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes. Both projects involve aspects of sugar mechanisms, with the former analyzing the neural side of diabetes’ counter-regulation.

Irvane’s diverse research background, spanning academic research and public health issues, has helped set him up for success in his future plans. Looking ahead, Irvane has set ambitious goals for himself. Post-graduation, he plans to attend medical school and continue his efforts toward advancing diabetes treatment.

In the meantime, he is preparing to travel to Bangladesh this summer to shadow medical practices and gain insights into their treatments. Currently majoring in biology with a focus on cellular and molecular studies with a minor in chemistry, Irvane has found SRI to be a unique opportunity to learn and gain practical experience in his multiple fields of study. Outside of the lab, Irvane is an enthusiastic outdoor lover, and whether it's fly fishing in the picturesque Uintas or supervising swim lessons as a lifeguard, he makes sure to find time to enjoy all that Utah’s nature has to offer . . . while avoiding mosquito bites. 


By Julia St. Andre

SRI Stories is a series by the College of Science, intended to share transformative experiences from students, alums, postdocs and faculty of the Science Research Initiative. To read more stories, visit the SRI Stories page. UPDATE (May 22, 2024): you can read a paper in which Irvane is a co-author about research he did with mosquito abatement here.