COLUMN: Labhopping with Dr. Wade Clapp

There are a huge number of laboratories on our Campus. At any moment, these laboratories could discover something that would change the world. Yet most students don’t have a clue about the labs and have never met the people running them. So, it’s time to go labhopping, and shine a spotlight on Dr. Wade Clapp, Physician in Chief at Riley Hospital and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics.
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When seeking career advice, most people might ask their coworkers, friends, or family. 

Me? I decided to ask the Physician-in-Chief and Chair of Pediatrics at Riley Hospital. 

As I was searching for a lab to do my Life Health Sciences Internship, I discovered Dr. Wade Clapp and the research he was doing on the Stark Neuroscience Institute website. What immediately struck me was that he was involved at Riley Hospital, and his work had clinical relevance to helping kids with cancer.

That was a plus. I enjoyed making mice drunk for alcohol research purposes, but I was seeking something with more obvious clinical relevance to apply to my future career as a healthcare professional. His work still dealt with rodents, but these rodents were models for neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that makes tumors form on nervous tissue, rather than alcoholism. My mother had passed away from cancer, and I had an old running buddy with neurofibromatosis, so that carried weight with me. I could more easily see the impact of this type of research.

After emailing back and forth with the director of the Stark Institute, Dr. Bruce Lamb, I sent Dr. Clapp an email asking him more about his lab. Eventually I asked him to do an interview because I figured he had a lot to talk about that would be especially beneficial to STEM students and pre-meds like myself. He graciously accepted. 

An MD/PhD student from my alcohol lab confirmed that Dr. Clapp was a busy man, but a great mentor.

Despite supporting a wide variety of staff and graduate students alike within the IU School of Medicine and Riley Hospital, he somehow made time for undergraduate students like me, even if it meant a zoom call over Saturday lunch! 

And while my interview with Dr. Clapp covered subjects ranging from growing up on the farm, to his career, to neurofibromatosis, what struck me most about him was his kind but knowledgeable personality. 

Being at the forefront of research at the Herman B Wells Institute for Pediatric Research, near the end of our time together he gave a message of support to all the participants of Jagathon: IUPUI’s Dance Marathon which raises money to support Riley Hospital and the Institute, thanking them for all their work and reminding them that their efforts were being put to good use.

If you would be interested in getting involved in a lab on campus, hearing more about research, or spotlighting a particular researcher, feel free to reach out to me at, or comment on this article. If you would like to get involved with Jagathon, raising money to support the work of many scientists like Dr. Clapp, improving treatment for children across the State, submit an involvement application here, and register here for the main event on March 26th.

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