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A gap junction, pictured here, is a connector between cells and can play a role in human disease. Brett Alldredge wrote about gap junctions.

PROVO — While he seems uncomfortable with the attention he's getting, others see the acceptance of a Brigham Young University undergraduate's article by a major medical journal as an accomplishment well worth the spotlight.

What's incredible isn't just that Brett Alldredge had his article accepted by the Journal of Clinical Pathology after months of work. It's that he devised, researched and wrote the article on his own — an accomplishment that rarely is achieved by a doctoral student, much less an undergraduate.

"It is most unusual to have undergraduates publish on their own," said Runjan Chetty, editor of the journal, in a statement. "This is an important area of research. Brett's contribution will be widely read, as it will interest several who are working in the field."

Chetty, who also is director of surgical pathology at the University Health Networks in Toronto, said that Alldredge's undergraduate status would not have impacted his decision to accept the article, though he was unaware of it.

"It wasn't his credentials that got the paper published," said David Busath, BYU professor of physiology and developmental biology. "It was the quality of the paper."

Alldredge's article explores recent publications on connections between individual cells called "gap junction," which are common in and important to most human tissue, and their relationships with different diseases or disorders as a result of malfunction.

"His article wasn't solo-authored because I wasn't interested in it or didn't pay any attention to him while he was working on it," Busath said. "(It was solo-authored because) he designed it and pulled it together all by himself."

Busath said Alldredge wrote the article by himself because there was little he as a professor could add to it by way of expertise. The subject matter went beyond his ability to judge for value. Both he and another BYU professor reviewed the article and made suggestions.

"Both of us recommended major reorganizational changes but not any major conceptual changes," he said. "All of the concepts that were in the paper were Brett's concepts that he pulled together from the literature, and so it was apropos that he be the solo author. That makes it all the more remarkable."

Prior to his experience with mentoring Alldredge, Busath had always been much more involved in the process of leading other undergraduates toward publication. He said in every case but Alldredge's there was a co-author.

With Alldredge, he said, all of that wasn't necessary.

"When you write a review article, your job is to put all of the current literature into perspective," Busath said. "And you have to have perspective to do that. I'm not sure Brett had a full perspective of the field, but he had a lot more than me because he had read these dozens of papers fairly carefully."

Alldredge, who graduated from BYU last month with a degree in neuroscience, submitted proposals last year for his review article to four or five scientific journals. The Journal of Clinical Pathology accepted his proposal and gave him the chance to show what kind of scholarship he could offer.

"When I got my acceptance e-mail, I was pretty surprised," Alldredge said.

He said his idea to submit an article to such a journal began with his studies in the laboratory at BYU and his reading into the subject on his own.

"That's where it all originated," he said. "Just from my understanding and conversations and working in the lab."

He started writing down his ideas and came up with an outline. He said prior to sending out his proposals, he read more than 100 different articles on the subject. By the time his acceptance came around, Alldredge said he already had a strong outline to go along with all of his research.

The reason for sending out the proposals, he said, was to see if his ideas were valid and if he even had a chance at getting published. He said he wanted to know if it was going to be worth his time to write the paper.

In the end it turned out it was well worth his time. Alldredge will attend medical school in the fall on his way to pursuing a career in psychiatry.


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