2023 Outstanding Student Achievement Award: Master’s Research Category

Erika Minetti ’23

Master’s in Medical Sciences Program



After eight years at Boston University – first as an undergraduate student, then as a research technician and as a clinical research coordinator – Erika Minetti is now preparing to graduate from the Master’s of Science in Medical Sciences (MAMS) program through Graduate Medical Sciences.

The May 2023 degree candidate is the winner of this year’s GMS Outstanding Student Achievement Award in the Master’s Research category, a clear indicator of the impressive academic work she has accomplished during her time in graduate school.

Born and raised in Milan, Italy, Minetti moved to Boston in 2015 to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology with a minor in music performance at Boston University.

Following graduation, Minetti spent one year as a research technician in the lab of Reiko Matsui, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine. She then transitioned to one year as a clinical research coordinator in a translational setting with Naomi Hamburg, MD, Joseph A. Vita Professor of Medicine and chief of the Vascular Biology Section.

When it came time for Minetti to apply to graduate programs, MAMS was a clear choice.

“I’ve been doing research from 2017, since I was an undergrad,” Minetti said. “I have a lot of really important mentors here from my research experience, in addition to all of the professors that I’ve met and who have also guided me through my master’s. […] That’s also why I picked the MAMS program specifically.”

Minetti returned to the Hamburg Lab to write her MAMS master’s thesis, titled “Cardiometabolic Proteomics and Vascular Endothelial Health in Type 2 Diabetes.”

People with type 2 diabetes are more vulnerable to developing cardiovascular disease, and endothelial dysfunction is one of the early indicators of cardiovascular disease. Vascular endothelial cells make up the innermost layer of blood vessels.

To better understand what drives endothelial dysfunction in patients with type 2 diabetes, Minetti and her team obtained serum from people who have type 2 diabetes and non diabetic controls.

The serum was used to assess levels of cardiometabolic markers using two O-Link panels. The biomarkers of which levels were significantly different in the two groups are involved in metabolism, immune function, apoptosis, vascular effects, and fluid homeostasis, but some of these biomarkers have many different cellular and physiological functions.

The lab also collected endothelial cells from both groups, stimulated them ex vivo with insulin and measured the fold change in levels of phosphorylated endothelial nitric oxide synthase (p-eNOS), an enzyme in the pathway that produces the potent vasodilator nitric oxide (NO). Then, they correlated the biomarker findings with p-eNOS levels.

“What we found is that there are associations between abnormal vascular endothelial phenotype and serum biomarkers in T2DM,” Minetti said. “That was our main finding, and that was really exciting to write about and to understand.”

The Outstanding Student Achievement Award comes as a well-deserved culmination of Minetti’s research and education before and throughout her time the MAMS program.

Minetti said that “as someone who is so passionate about research, [she feels] honored to be receiving the award” and dedicates it to all of the mentors she has had at BU, especially Hamburg and Matsui, as well as Robert Weisbrod, her senior lab manager, and Gwynneth Offner, PhD, director of the MAMS program and an associate professor of medicine.

“The great thing about all my mentors is that they helped me not only in my academics and in my research, but they also take the time to mentor me through the challenges I face in my life,” Minetti said. “I’m incredibly grateful, and I don’t think I could have made as much progress without them.”

Minetti plans to apply to medical school while continuing work in the Hamburg Lab. She will continue her research on vascular endothelial health in type 2 diabetes, and she will also be involved in a study that assesses the long-term endothelial effects of COVID-19 in obesity.

She will continue to pursue her hobby of playing violin. Her favorite piece is the Mendelssohn violin concerto, but she also plays in orchestras in the area. In her free time she also enjoys running along the Charles river.

Minetti encourages future MAMS students to be grateful of the mentors who provide feedback and guide them through their degrees, and to always remember that success comes in different forms.

“Now I can say with confidence that if you find something challenging, that’s a great sign, because it means you’re about to learn something,” Minetti said. “I learned a lot in these past few years. I think everyone did, which is really great.”