Derek Wiltz ’16 is on the frontlines in New Orleans doing his part during the pandemic by working in a lab that processes COVID-19 samples. “It is a huge hotbed down here, so everyone is pitching in any way they can,” said Wiltz.
The alum received a B.S. in Biology with a Minor in Chemistry from FranU. During his time at the University, he was Senator of the Student Government Association, Treasurer of Beta Sigma Mu and received first runner-up for a research and scholarship showcase.
Wiltz currently studies pharmacology at Tulane School of Medicine, where he is earning his M.D./PhD. “I am researching adipose-derived stem cells, which are mesenchymal stem cells that are found in subcutaneous adipose tissue. These can serve as a source to regenerate tissue, instead of resorting to embryonic stem cells,” he stated.
He produced award-winning independent research centered on Cell Biology/Microbiology titled The varying effects of diet on daf-12 expression in nematodes.
As a student researcher he has tested the role of DNA mutations to improve personalized medicine, notably in patients with hemochromatosis by which accurately and properly diagnosed illnesses and diseases; prepared briefings for department meetings to improve DNA research, and conversed consultations of pediatric patients at the University Clinic; compiled a retrospective study that searched for factors such as secondhand smoke, otorrhea, and rhinorrhea that caused ear perforations, which led to a co-authored publication; assisted doctors, professors and research specialists with an international project on children’s Correlation with Lifestyle and Obesity (ISCOLE); and shadowed physician assistants and worked clinical rotations around campus and Implemented research-based prevention and youth development programs in Baton Rouge elementary schools.
Wiltz said that his passion for research started the summer he attended Penn State College of Medicine. “I love research because it has no rules. You are constantly bringing up ideas and tasks which are logically or sometimes illogically ok to work with. I love the ambiance of working in a quiet, contained area in which anything can be at my disposal.”
He said that FranU prepared him for graduate school by providing resources to conduct his research. “I especially thank Dr. Lenard and Dr. Reddix for working with me and giving me advice. I liked that FranU participated with community service, which is something I still participate in today.”
Wiltz shared that after graduation, he would like to work on athletes as a physician in sports medicine while also researching alternatives to surgery with regenerative medicine.