Pre-med student's studies could help lessen antibiotic side effects in patients.
Heidi Rowles '16, a dual graduate of UC Clermont College's biological sciences and pre-pharmacy associate degree programs, has received international recognition for her research.
Rowles's first paper, titled "Increasing Antibiotic Therapy Compliance through Concurrent Probiotic Consumption," will appear in the spring issue of the International Journal of Probiotics and Prebiotics; a second paper, "Lactobacillus fermentum as a Treatment for Intestinal Infection," will be published online in the Journal of Probiotics and Health. The research, all of which Rowles completed in the UC Clermont lab, focuses on using probiotics to decrease the gastrointestinal side effects of antibiotics, with the hope that doing so will encourage patients to finish their prescribed treatments.
"Side effects like diarrhea and gas cause many people to quit taking their antibiotics early, which can be dangerous," Rowles said. Physicians generally advise patients to complete a course of antibiotics for two main reasons: To eradicate the infection, and to prevent antibiotic resistance that may arise from incomplete therapy. "If we can reduce those symptoms with over-the-counter probiotics, patients are more likely to finish their treatment. There has been talk of probiotics perhaps helping with these side effects for years, but there isn't a lot of evidence-based information available. I hope to begin to change that with this research."
For Rowles, research is a family matter; her father, the late Randall Rowles, worked as a research chemist in UC's Leather Research Lab. In 2009, the American Leather Chemists Association established the Randall Rowles Memorial Scholarship for students related to an ALCA member and majoring in the sciences or leather-related fields (Heidi received the scholarship in 2015). But despite familial ties, Rowles had three young children to care for, and put off her own ambitions for years.
Then, in 2013, the single working mom knew the time was finally right to pursue her own dreams. The Goshen resident enrolled at nearby UC Clermont, starting with online classes before signing up for courses on campus. Rowles first began exploring research in her organic chemistry class, eventually working under the tutelage of Associate Professor Michael Preston, who says Rowles's published work is a significant achievement for an undergraduate student at any institution.
"Heidi possesses a deep motivation to learn. She is mature, professional and very knowledgeable," Preston said. "She is an excellent example of the type of students that we like to produce at UC Clermont."
Preston added that the type of hands-on research conducted by Rowles is a benefit for students at a smaller regional campus like UC Clermont; authoring studies is rare for undergraduates at larger schools, where graduate students frequently fill labs. "I have had several students who have done this type of research here, and it lifts them to another level," Preston said. "These student researchers have actually done things in the lab that their peers from other colleges are just starting to learn about in class. It makes for a student with experience who is more qualified and confident, and opens up many opportunities for them."
One door that opened for Rowles was a full scholarship to Ivy League Cornell University — an opportunity she turned down to continue her education at UC. Rowles is now a Pre-Medicine student on Main Campus and planning to attend medical school. She still returns to UC Clermont to conduct research, though, and says the campus provided the perfect launching pad for her new career path.
"The professors at Clermont College really take an interest in working with and helping students," Rowles said. "When I apply for med school, I'll be able to say that I've published my own research. It's amazing. Had I started on Main Campus, I never would have been given this opportunity."
This story was originally published in fall 2017.