By Gerard Lavoie

Spotlight on Students: Maria Vasilakos

October 27th, 2011 in Homepage Spotlights, Student Spotlight

Maria Vasilakos--Choosing a career is not always an easy task.  A graduate from the M.A. in Medical Sciences – Oral Health Sciences track and a first year dental student at the Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine (BUGDM), Maria Vasilakos provides some insight on her unique path into the dental field.

What made you choose the field of dentistry?

Ever since I was a young child, I wanted to be a dentist.  As I grew up and during college, the idea of dentistry disappeared, and I ultimately earned a degree in Biology, with a marine biology concentration, from Northeastern University.  After graduation, I taught scuba diving but eventually wanted to further challenge myself.  I decided on teaching.  In my third year, as a high school biology teacher, a student sought me out for advice on class choice to better prepare her for dental school.  As I was researching prerequisites for programs for my student, I rekindled my childhood interest in dentistry and began to look for dental schools for myself.

I understand you graduated from the M.A. in Medical Sciences (MAMS) Oral Health Track.  How did you hear about the program, and how was your experience in the program?

I met my husband while I was studying for the DAT.  As my husband was a graduate of the GMS MAMS program, he encouraged me to apply to the Oral Health track within MAMS in addition to dental schools.  The MAMS Oral Health program was perfect for me, as it had been a while since I had been a student.  Without the program, dental school would have been a struggle.  I had to work hard to get my work done and earn the grades, but it prepared me for the heavier course work in dental school.  The Oral Health track equipped me with study habits that have been critical for me to get through my current academic work.  Because I took classes with BUGDM while in the Oral Health track, I am able to fully focus on elective courses that require the basic science knowledge for this first year.  In one sense, I would definitely say I have an advantage over my classmates that did not graduate from the MAMS Oral Health track, or another similar program.

Congratulations on being elected Class President!  What made you decide to run for office?

Entering BUGDM, I wanted to become more involved as a student representative.  I am a different type of dental student – I am older than most of my classmates, I have a Master’s degree in Oral Health Sciences, and I have years of experience in a field other than medicine.  I wanted to be able to use my unique situation to contribute to the first-year class.  As President, I will be responsible for academic issues students face, such as the scheduling of exams and courses.  I also will get to plan some social activities to unite the class, including a possible ski trip this winter.

What are your future plans once you graduate from the dental school?

I want to practice dentistry, but I also want to teach.  My past experience as an educator was an influential aspect of my life, and is something I want to continue.

What advice can you give current GMS and/or MAMS students as they work to complete their degrees?

GMS offers very unique opportunities to its students. Particularly with MAMS, the program can make you, or break you.  The MAMS program is a second chance for you if your undergraduate career was not as appealing as needed to get in to medical school.  If you do well in the program, then you have a very good chance continuing on into medical, dental, or other professional school.  If you do poorly, then you lose the second chance, and there may not be a third.  It is so important to strive for success in the GMS programs, and to do that, you will have to study hard.

Balancing academics and a social life can be difficult, especially for students new to the Boston area.  Set aside time both during the week and on the weekends for studies and extracurricular activities.  I also surround myself with people who are passionate about their studies, who I can talk to about classes, and who are supportive of my goals.  You can find many ways to combine your social and academic interests.

 

 

Spotlight on Students: Geunwon Kim

August 4th, 2011 in Homepage Spotlights, Student Spotlight

Kim, GeunwonNot many people can say they enjoy waking up and going to work every day.  Geunwon Kim may be an exception.  A current MD/PhD student in her fourth PhD year, she mixes research with passion as she attends conferences and prepares for her MD years at Boston University School of Medicine.

Welcome back to Boston!  I understand you were just at an International Conference?

Yes, the 2011 Gordon Conference “Stress Proteins in Growth, Development & Disease,” which was a six-day conference in Lucca, Italy focusing on the role of stress proteins as regulators of disease and life span.  I had to forego an MD/PhD conference here in the States, but overall, it was worth it.  The conference was small with approximately a hundred people, but there were some big name scientists, and the quality of research was outstanding.  I was a bit star-struck actually, especially when I had to approach them.  I’ve read about their research, and having the chance to talk to them was inspiring.

What was the research you presented?

I presented my research in a poster session on the mechanism behind the attenuation of heat shock factor in senescent cells.  The experience gave me exposure, and many of the prominent scientists who were there came to see my poster.  They commented and discussed my research with me, and they gave many ideas to further my research.  More importantly, I found the more I talked about my project, the more familiar I became with it.

What PhD program are you in here at BU?

I am in the Molecular Medicine PhD program.  I absolutely love my program.  When I was considering PhD programs, I knew I wanted one with a diverse group of faculty with experience ranging from basic science to translational science.  In addition, the Molecular Medicine Program at BU offers a variety of seminars that keep me engaged in other areas of science, besides my narrow field of research.

What made you choose the combined MD/PhD program?

I always knew that I would be a doctor. In college, a professor took me under her wings as a freshman and showed me what research was all about. After that, I wanted to incorporate research in my career and MD/PhD seemed like a good idea. Since starting this program, I have realized how important it is to understand how disease affects a person, but also to do so at the molecular level.  Even though I am working with cells in the lab, I and other researchers are always thinking about how the bench work would translate to the clinics. The MD/PhD program facilitates this translational thinking and research.

What are your future plans/goals?

I love to balance the clinical and research work.  I haven’t decided if I will go directly into clinical medicine or become a researcher.  Right now, research makes me want to get up in the morning and go to work where I might find something new.  My work in the lab is exciting, and I love when I can see the applications of my research in tangible ways.

What have you found to be the most challenging part of your academic career as a MD/PhD student here at BU?

I am in my 4th year as a PhD candidate, and it has been a very challenging experience.  The education I am getting now is very different from all my past degrees.  When you are a PhD student in a lab, there are no answers, you must find the answer yourself and back it up with your research.  There are no right and wrong answers that can be verified with a textbook.  You have to utilize what you already know to venture into the unknown, and this is definitely something I struggled with in the beginning.  When I first started the program, I needed and wanted some validation that my research and progress was either right or wrong.  But then I soon realized that it is okay not to know what will happen.  I learned that the whole process of a PhD is about exploring your subject, building thinking skills, and learning how to get an answer to your question from your own work. This was the hardest part, and I am still getting used to it.

Are you involved in other activities outside of research?

I am also on the Volunteerism Committee for United Way Women’s Initiative.  The purpose of this organization is to involve women in Greater Boston area to make a difference in the lives of other women and families.  We recently compiled a demographic survey to better understand the volunteer pool in the area.

Do you have any advice for current GMS students?

Don’t give up.  Be passionate and take pride in your work.  Also, if you have the opportunity, present your research.  For Masters students considering a PhD, make sure you love the research, which is a process – process of asking the right questions.  Always be asking why/how, and then find a logical solution in any way you can.  Boston University is a great school, so take advantage of the faculty and resources.



Spotlight on Students: Flavien Leclere

June 30th, 2011 in Homepage Spotlights, Student Spotlight

Flavien Leclere PHOTO--6.28.11Balancing graduate school and all that comes with it—classes, research, exams—is not easy.  We sat down with Flavien Leclere, President of the Graduate Medical Sciences Student Organization (GMSSO) and the recent recipient of the   Robert F. Troxler Award in Biochemistry, to hear how he maintains a busy schedule, and has fun doing it.

Can you tell me a bit about GMSSO and how you got involved?

I was heavily involved in a lot of activities during undergrad and really wanted to participate.  I initially wasn’t planning on becoming too involved.  I kept receiving emails about the Executive Board, but it wasn’t until some of my peers convinced me to run that I ended up becoming the President of GMSSO. So far, things are running relatively smoothly.  It’s a little hectic during this transition as we lose some members and gain new ones.  But the old Executive Board members have been very helpful and supportive of the new board members and me.

As the newly elected President, do you have any plans for the upcoming year?

There is nothing set in stone as of yet.  We hold an annual blood drive, and would like to add a second one.  We also work with Project Gratitude by staffing collection booths and assembling leisure items, clothing, food, and personal hygiene products for troops overseas. A new organization we would like to begin working with is Freedom House.  Part of its mission is to promote educational excellence in Boston’s most distressed urban neighborhoods.  Freedom House has found that students are having a difficult time with the sciences, and we hope to participate by tutoring them in basic science subjects.  We really want to tie the GMSSO to a charitable organization, and Freedom House might be it.  We also want to host a screening for the film Life of a PhD Student, and we are currently very focused on the upcoming 2011 Fall Orientation.

What other activities are you involved in here on campus or in the Boston Community?

I am a member of the American Red Cross of the Massachusetts Bay area by participating on the Disaster Action Team.  I had participated in the Disaster Action Team in Milwaukee and enjoyed it so much that I chose to participate here in Boston.  It involves being on call for a certain time period and being part of the first response to fires.  It has been hard being a graduate student and responding to those kinds of calls, especially when the call is at three in the morning and there is an exam the next day.  Seeing people lose everything in a fire is very emotional, but the experience is extremely rewarding.

What program of study are you in?

I’m in the Master of Arts in Medical Sciences (MAMS) program.  When I completed my undergrad, I was looking for a program that would help me in medical school, but I didn’t want to jump right into a PhD program.  I chose BU because everyone I talked to was very straightforward and upfront.  I knew what I could expect from the program, and I knew what BU expected from me.  It seemed like the best decision I could make.

As a second year MAMS student, you must be putting a lot of though and work into your thesis.  What is the most rewarding or the most difficult part about the research?

I will begin my thesis research this July in a laboratory at Harvard Medical School.  My research will focus around p53 and the HPV virus.  I completed previous research as an undergraduate, both with a mentor and independently.  I have also worked in projects that involved organizing and analyzing years of data using statistical methods. Research can be very rewarding but it requires a lot of patience, especially in the laboratory.  Things don’t always work, and tests can go wrong.  It is a lot of repetition.  But it is part of the bigger picture, and I am looking forward to beginning my thesis work.

You were recently awarded the Robert F. Troxler Award in Biochemistry.  Do you have any advice for incoming or current students on how to set high academic standards while still maintaining involvement in other activities?

Balancing everything will be different for everyone.  I was lucky that my undergraduate institution had a very rigorous biochemistry program, so I obtained a very significant background in the subject.  But ultimately, you have to have fun while learning the subject.  Hopefully everyone who is considering medicine as a career is doing so because they enjoy it.  I also think it’s important to look at your studies from a practical aspect.  Don’t study by memorizing everything in the syllabus.  You have to understand how the material all fits together.  Once you understand the bigger picture, then memorizing the little details becomes easy. But it all starts with enjoying the subject.

My advice for studying is to go outside and stay out of the library.  I like to study somewhere I can talk to other people involved in other things, like at home.  My roommates are not science majors, and I cannot talk to them about Biochemistry. That keeps me open and prevents me from thinking on one track.  You have to split your studies up and, if need be, take a break to enjoy other things too.  And definitely don’t cram for those tests.

Spotlight on Faculty: Dr. Joseph Zaia

June 16th, 2011 in Faculty Spotlight

Dr. Joseph Zaia PHOTO--5.11.11Among the many great researchers at BUSM, Dr. Joseph Zaia, Associate Professor in the Department of Biochemistry, is here to offer some insight on the trials and rewards of being an advisor, educator, and scientist in the modern world.

Q. What is the best part of being a professor and scientist at BUSM?

As for being a scientist, I enjoy having a unique and universal language, the language of science. It transcends individuals and native languages. I can talk to anyone in this language with this background. It doesn’t matter where in the world someone is from, we can talk about science.

The best part of being a professor at BUSM is the opportunity to teach. Being a mentor to developing scientists is extremely satisfying. Students are so important to the life of the Biochemistry Department. I encounter so many excellent students here. They are focused, hardworking, up to date on the literature, and have a necessary spark for working in the lab.

BUSM provides a sense of community within the field and in the laboratory. This school has a special feel to it, especially within the basic sciences. People here are open to collaboration and are so easy to approach with an idea, or are willing to offer assistance. I don’t have the same academic background as the rest of my colleagues, but I fit in here. There is a synergy within this academic and research community.

Q. What is being an advisor to these students like?

Students first do four rotations in different labs before they decide where they prefer to work. Deciding to do thesis research in a professor’s lab is a mutual agreement entered into by the student and the professor, and specifically mediated by the Student Affairs Committee in my department, Biochemistry. As students become more experienced and comfortable in the lab, they gain more autonomy. It takes years to develop the intuition and understanding needed to plan and execute projects that are successful. I like to have at least one face-to-face sit down with each student in my lab every week as well as weekly group meetings. It can take some time building up momentum as an advisor. The first five years I advised were completely different from now. I make better decisions now as how to advise people. I’ve learned it’s important to encourage people, and I’ve learned how to encourage them in the right way. An advisor must figure out each individual’s needs.

Q. What advice would you give to those deciding on their lab placements?

  • The personality of the lab mentor is very important. You need to enjoy working together. The chemistry has to be there. You need to feel it can work, and if not, consider other options.

Q. It seems you’ve grown professionally while here at BUSM, what advice would you give to young faculty members?

  • Get advice from your colleagues.
  • Get others to help you avoid the mistakes that everybody makes.

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about your role as the Associate Director for the Center for Biomedical Mass Spectrometry?

The purpose at the Center is to combine basic technology development to meet the emerging needs of biomedicine. It is essential to glue these two aspects together. I am looking at the biochemistry of connective tissue, which relates to many different disease processes. As part of the lab, I get the opportunity to talk with a lot of people here at BUMC, as well as elsewhere. The work is important to help develop disease therapies, and therefore, feels extremely meaningful. Our work involves development of technology, or more specifically, mass spectrometry, which can be applied to compound classes, such as proteoglycans that are a part of every tissue. This technology is universal and has many applications, from studying cell growth in cancer to Alzheimer’s disease.

Q. How did you become interested in Mass Spectrometry?

I was originally trained as a chemist and I joined a biotech company to study cartilage joint repair. I focused the biochemistry of cartilage, which led to my interest in the chemistry of connective tissue, and I have been working on the clinical application of these methods. My career path has been growing towards the exploitation of proteoglycan biochemistry toward the development of therapeutic targets.

Q. You’ve been a part of the BU community for over ten years. What is it that has kept you here?

BU provides an excellent environment for students, especially in the biochemistry department. The people in charge of the program really care about the students and are experienced enough to deal with any problems in a very reasonable way. It’s not the type of environment where a student can get lost in the shuffle because there is someone who will check on their progress. The right students are admitted into the program, and they are all very capable.

Q. Any other advice for young scientists?

  • Think about the scientific problem you what to solve. Force yourself to think about what society needs done. There should be something more specific than just ‘I want to do science’.
  • It’s not easy to do be a scientist, and the scientific questions may not be clear to you in your 20’s. So try to figure out what problems are the most important to solve in your career as a scientist. Pay attention!

By:

Margaret Wentworth

Among the many great researchers at BUSM, Dr. Joseph Zaia, Associate Professor in the Department of Biochemistry, is here to offer some insight on the trials and rewards of being an advisor, educator, and scientist in the modern world.

Q. What is the best part of being a professor and scientist at BUSM?

As for being a scientist, I enjoy having a unique and universal language, the language of science. It transcends individuals and native languages. I can talk to anyone in this language with this background. It doesn’t matter where in the world someone is from, we can talk about science.

The best part of being a professor at BUSM is the opportunity to teach. Being a mentor to developing scientists is extremely satisfying. Students are so important to the life of the Biochemistry Department. I encounter so many excellent students here. They are focused, hardworking, up to date on the literature, and have a necessary spark for working in the lab.

BUSM provides a sense of community within the field and in the laboratory. This school has a special feel to it, especially within the basic sciences. People here are open to collaboration and are so easy to approach with an idea, or are willing to offer assistance. I don’t have the same academic background as the rest of my colleagues, but I fit in here. There is a synergy within this academic and research community.

Q. What is being an advisor to these students like?

Students first do four rotations in different labs before they decide where they prefer to work. Deciding to do thesis research in a professor’s lab is a mutual agreement entered into by the student and the professor, and specifically mediated by the Student Affairs Committee in my department, Biochemistry. As students become more experienced and comfortable in the lab, they gain more autonomy. It takes years to develop the intuition and understanding needed to plan and execute projects that are successful. I like to have at least one face-to-face sit down with each student in my lab every week as well as weekly group meetings. It can take some time building up momentum as an advisor. The first five years I advised were completely different from now. I make better decisions now as how to advise people. I’ve learned it’s important to encourage people, and I’ve learned how to encourage them in the right way. An advisor must figure out each individual’s needs.

Q. What advice would you give to those deciding on their lab placements?

  • The personality of the lab mentor is very important. You need to enjoy working together. The chemistry has to be there. You need to feel it can work, and if not, consider other options.

Q. It seems you’ve grown professionally while here at BUSM, what advice would you give to young faculty members?

  • Get advice from your colleagues.
  • Get others to help you avoid the mistakes that everybody makes.

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about your role as the Associate Director for the Center for Biomedical Mass Spectrometry?

The purpose at the Center is to combine basic technology development to meet the emerging needs of biomedicine. It is essential to glue these two aspects together. I am looking at the biochemistry of connective tissue, which relates to many different disease processes. As part of the lab, I get the opportunity to talk with a lot of people here at BUMC, as well as elsewhere. The work is important to help develop disease therapies, and therefore, feels extremely meaningful. Our work involves development of technology, or more specifically, mass spectrometry, which can be applied to compound classes, such as proteoglycans that are a part of every tissue. This technology is universal and has many applications, from studying cell growth in cancer to Alzheimer’s disease.

Q. How did you become interested in Mass Spectrometry?

I was originally trained as a chemist and I joined a biotech company to study cartilage joint repair. I focused the biochemistry of cartilage, which led to my interest in the chemistry of connective tissue, and I have been working on the clinical application of these methods. My career path has been growing towards the exploitation of proteoglycan biochemistry toward the development of therapeutic targets.

Q. You’ve been a part of the BU community for over ten years. What is it that has kept you here?

BU provides an excellent environment for students, especially in the biochemistry department. The people in charge of the program really care about the students and are experienced enough to deal with any problems in a very reasonable way. It’s not the type of environment where a student can get lost in the shuffle because there is someone who will check on their progress. The right students are admitted into the program, and they are all very capable.

Q. Any other advice for young scientists?

  • Think about the scientific problem you what to solve. Force yourself to
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    Among the many great researchers at BUSM, Dr. Joseph Zaia, Associate Professor in the Department of Biochemistry, is here to offer some insight on the trials and rewards of being an advisor, educator, and scientist in the modern world.

    Q. What is the best part of being a professor and scientist at BUSM?

    As for being a scientist, I enjoy having a unique and universal language, the language of science. It transcends individuals and native languages. I can talk to anyone in this language with this background. It doesn’t matter where in the world someone is from, we can talk about science.

    The best part of being a professor at BUSM is the opportunity to teach. Being a mentor to developing scientists is extremely satisfying. Students are so important to the life of the Biochemistry Department. I encounter so many excellent students here. They are focused, hardworking, up to date on the literature, and have a necessary spark for working in the lab.

    BUSM provides a sense of community within the field and in the laboratory. This school has a special feel to it, especially within the basic sciences. People here are open to collaboration and are so easy to approach with an idea, or are willing to offer assistance. I don’t have the same academic background as the rest of my colleagues, but I fit in here. There is a synergy within this academic and research community.

    Q. What is being an advisor to these students like?

    Students first do four rotations in different labs before they decide where they prefer to work. Deciding to do thesis research in a professor’s lab is a mutual agreement entered into by the student and the professor, and specifically mediated by the Student Affairs Committee in my department, Biochemistry. As students become more experienced and comfortable in the lab, they gain more autonomy. It takes years to develop the intuition and understanding needed to plan and execute projects that are successful. I like to have at least one face-to-face sit down with each student in my lab every week as well as weekly group meetings. It can take some time building up momentum as an advisor. The first five years I advised were completely different from now. I make better decisions now as how to advise people. I’ve learned it’s important to encourage people, and I’ve learned how to encourage them in the right way. An advisor must figure out each individual’s needs.

    Q. What advice would you give to those deciding on their lab placements?

  • The personality of the lab mentor is very important. You need to enjoy working together. The chemistry has to be there. You need to feel it can work, and if not, consider other options.

Q. It seems you’ve grown professionally while here at BUSM, what advice would you give to young faculty members?

  • Get advice from your colleagues.
  • Get others to help you avoid the mistakes that everybody makes.

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about your role as the Associate Director for the Center for Biomedical Mass Spectrometry?

The purpose at the Center is to combine basic technology development to meet the emerging needs of biomedicine. It is essential to glue these two aspects together. I am looking at the biochemistry of connective tissue, which relates to many different disease processes. As part of the lab, I get the opportunity to talk with a lot of people here at BUMC, as well as elsewhere. The work is important to help develop disease therapies, and therefore, feels extremely meaningful. Our work involves development of technology, or more specifically, mass spectrometry, which can be applied to compound classes, such as proteoglycans that are a part of every tissue. This technology is universal and has many applications, from studying cell growth in cancer to Alzheimer’s disease.

Q. How did you become interested in Mass Spectrometry?

I was originally trained as a chemist and I joined a biotech company to study cartilage joint repair. I focused the biochemistry of cartilage, which led to my interest in the chemistry of connective tissue, and I have been working on the clinical application of these methods. My career path has been growing towards the exploitation of proteoglycan biochemistry toward the development of therapeutic targets.

Q. You’ve been a part of the BU community for over ten years. What is it that has kept you here?

BU provides an excellent environment for students, especially in the biochemistry department. The people in charge of the program really care about the students and are experienced enough to deal with any problems in a very reasonable way. It’s not the type of environment where a student can get lost in the shuffle because there is someone who will check on their progress. The right students are admitted into the program, and they are all very capable.

Q. Any other advice for young scientists?

  • Think about the scientific problem you what to solve. Force yourself to think about what society needs done. There should be something more specific than just ‘I want to do science’.
  • It’s not easy to do be a scientist, and the scientific questions may not be clear to you in your 20’s. So try to figure out what problems are the most important to solve in your career as a scientist. Pay attention!

By:

Margaret Wentworth

  • think about what society needs done. There should be something more specific than just ‘I want to do science’.
  • It’s not easy to do be a scientist, and the scientific questions may not be clear to you in your 20’s. So try to figure out what problems are the most important to solve in your career as a scientist. Pay attention!

By:

Margaret Wentworth

Spotlight on Faculty: Judith Saide

May 26th, 2011 in Faculty Spotlight

Dr. Judith Saidefor wesiteWinner of the 2011 GMS Educator of the Year Award, Dr. Judith Saide continually inspires students with her passion for graduate education. The award is based on student recommendations from all of the GMS programs. Dr. Saide has been nominated for several years during her career at BUMC, consistently meeting and surpassing the GMS standards for excellent teaching. Learn about the involvement of an exceptional educator from the caring, modest, and warm GMS Educator of the Year.

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about your career here at BUMC?

I’ve been at BUMC for over 30 years. I had been involved in both research and teaching for many years, but more recently I’ve been primarily focused on teaching. I teach medical physiology for graduate, medical and dental students. I became the course director in 2005 for medical physiology. I love the environment here; my colleagues are great, as are the students.

Q. What is your favorite aspect of teaching?

I particularly like discussion sessions. These allow interactions with the students that help you get to know them better on a more personal and academic level. Discussion sessions are more relaxed and a less formal environment than the lecture hall. One of the most satisfying aspects of teaching for me is the one-on-one work with students who are struggling with course material. Having them reach that eureka moment when they finally “get it” is very rewarding for me.

Q. What do you think is most important in being a great educator?

You must have the ability to have clarity in your explanations and you must be able to answers students’ questions in a clear manner that helps them understand the material in a new way. Also, you must have the capacity to engage students in the classroom. It is important to create a non-threatening environment. Teaching means encouraging students to ask questions, and that will only happen in an environment where they feel safe.  They should not be afraid to raise their hands. Finally, enthusiasm about the subject you’re teaching is critical. I am awed by the human body and how it works, so I find it easy and rewarding to teach Physiology with enthusiasm.  Because of ongoing research, the field stays interesting because it is constantly evolving.

Q. You said it is important to engage students, how do you do that?

You engage students by asking them questions. Start with less complex questions so students feel encouraged to participate. These questions help an educator gauge how well the students understand the material. All educators need to be invested in the students’ understanding of the material. Student participation depends on the dynamic of the class, which changes with each new group in a classroom. Participation of one or two active students can be contagious. But it also depends on the professor. The professor should be open to students who are confused and should not to be intimidating to the students, and that is not always easy.  I don’t consider myself at all intimidating, but I’ve discovered that I can be perceived that way!

Q. What have you learned about teaching?

The more you teach, the more you can recognize where and when students are struggling with the material. Although, new teachers have an advantage to succeed at this as well, since they have recently been in the students’ shoes as learners and know the areas that need special attention.

Q. What do you think you do that has contributed to your nominations and receiving this award?

I’m not sure exactly. I have heard from students that they appreciate that I am clear in my explanations of topics. I also use vignettes to emphasize the importance of understanding the basics, and I care about doing a good job. I also love what I teach, and I’m invested in my students’ success.

Q. What advice would you give to other educators?

Be aware of your audience and make eye contact. I like to use the chalkboard rather than power point presentations in my lectures. It helps you pace the lecture and interact with the students. For new teachers and even more experienced faculty, confidence can be an issue before a lecture. I try to remind myself that I have something to offer the students. Finally, science information is exploding, and that puts a huge burden on students who are expected to learn more every year.  The challenge for teachers is to cull the information, emphasize what is fundamental, and not overburden students with facts. Information overload saps a student’s joy of learning.  I think if we teach less, students will learn more, and they’ll have the tools to search out what they need to know.

Q. And what about advice to your students?

I would encourage students to try to learn a subject to empower themselves, not just to pass the next exam.  That can be difficult because students are overwhelmed with material and are usually in survival mode.  But if they take control of their own education, by being active rather than passive learners, passing exams shouldn’t be a problem.  I advise students to study material as if they had to enter a classroom and teach it.  Thinking about explaining concepts to someone else is an excellent way for a student to find the holes in their own understanding. It encourages them to actively search out answers.  One way to do that is for students to spend some time working together in groups asking and answering each other’s questions.

Another way, of course, is for them to ask questions in class or search out faculty.  Students are often hesitant to do that, because of concerns about what a faculty member, or worse, their classmates might think of them.  I have the greatest respect, though, for students who are trying to learn and are willing to make themselves vulnerable by admitting they are not following an explanation in class.  That forces an instructor to rework that explanation, and everyone benefits.

Congratulations again to Dr. Saide on a well deserved award. It is educators like her that make a difference on students’ academic success.

Spotlight on Students: Stephanie Seidl

May 19th, 2011 in Homepage Spotlights, Student Spotlight

seidl photoCompleting a graduate degree requires hard work, dedication, motivation, and the sacrifice of free time.  Even when it seems that there is no end in sight, the final degree does pay off.  Stephanie is one of the many GMS students that will be graduating this May and entering the work force. One of GMS’s involved and successful students, she is here to provide some hope, insight, and advice for current students.

Q. What are some of the activities you have been involved in while here at BUSM?

I received a travel award the past three years that allowed me to travel to Atlanta, Washington DC, and San Francisco. I presented posters in all three cities at Atherosclerosis Thrombosis Vascular Biology (ATVB) meeting, along with 500-600 other presenters. I have also been teaching ‘Cell Culture Techniques’ at City Lab, and I participated in Whizkids for three years, an organization that teaches hands-on science projects to elementary and middle school aged students in addition to how to complete a science project and present it in a science fair. And I was part of GMSSO for four years.

Q. Can you tell us more about GMSSO and your involvement?

The Graduate Medical Sciences Student Organization’s (GMSSO) goal is to help bring students from all of the GMS departments and programs together to share ideas or concerns as a united student body. We also organize various social and volunteer activities. I was a member and President of GMSSO until this year, but I decided to give up my involvement while I focused on school my final year. The driving force behind GMSSO is the desire to create a better life for students.  With this organization, one of our main accomplishments was to get better student healthcare coverage and a maternity leave policy in place for students. We also do community service activities, such as organizing blood drives. We have been extremely fortunate to have Dr. Hyman’s support, and she has been an excellent advocate for our causes. Participating in GMSSO activities and being on the committee is a great way to meet everybody around BUSM, especially the faculty.

Q. You are finishing your time here at BUSM this spring and graduating. Tell us about your program and graduating.

I was in the Cell and Molecular Biology program, but later joined the Biochemistry department.  I just defended my thesis on the effects of inflammation on smooth muscle cell extracellular matrix on March 30th!  It was definitely a challenge to write a thesis that covers four years of experiments, but as long as you tackle a little at a time and stay on top of the corrections, it is very manageable.  Going into the oral defense, I really did not know what to expect, but it really is one big discussion about what you have done for the past four years and it closely resembles that of a committee meeting.  It provides an opportunity to think about the ‘big picture’ and how it relates to your research.

Q. Do you have plans for after graduation?

I recently accepted a job working for a company in Danvers called Cell Signaling Technologies. It is nice to have something lined up after graduation, but it was challenging to balance schoolwork and the job search; it took a while.  The economy turned slightly better and job openings were slowly posted. I guess it hasn’t even really hit me yet that I am done.  Maybe it will on Saturday’s commencement ceremony.

Q. Any advice for other graduating students looking for jobs?

  • I sent out twenty-five or more résumés.
  • You really have to look for job postings, and send resumes, every day. Employers are only looking at the résumés they receive in the first few days. It has a lot to do with good timing.
  • Start job-hunting early!
  • Talk to committee members and reach out to classmates that have graduated to develop connections.

Q. What about advice for those still in GMS or writing their thesis and ready to defend?

  • Try and write your thesis in sections; do a little bit here and there. Tackle it early on and you’ll have less to do at the end.
  • Before your seminar and defense, take a deep breath and just relax (which I was told but found it difficult to actually do).
  • Try and enjoy it! The faculty are really approachable, and they want you to succeed.
  • Go to a conference. Try to attend at least one. National or international. You never know what information you will find that will drive the direction of your research.

Good luck to Stephanie and all the graduating GMS students!

By GMS Student,

Maggie Wentworth

Spotlight on Faculty: Dr. Joseph Zaia

May 19th, 2011 in Faculty Spotlight

zaia photoAmong the many great researchers at BUSM, Dr. Joseph Zaia, Associate Professor in the Department of Biochemistry, is here to offer some insight on the trials and rewards of being an advisor, educator, and scientist in the modern world.

Q. What is the best part of being a professor and scientist at BUSM?

As for being a scientist, I enjoy having a unique and universal language, the language of science. It transcends individuals and native languages. I can talk to anyone in this language with this background. It doesn’t matter where in the world someone is from, we can talk about science.

The best part of being a professor at BUSM is the opportunity to teach. Being a mentor to developing scientists is extremely satisfying. Students are so important to the life of the Biochemistry Department.  I encounter so many excellent students here.  They are focused, hardworking, up to date on the literature, and have a necessary spark for working in the lab.

BUSM provides a sense of community within the field and in the laboratory. This school has a special feel to it, especially within the basic sciences. People here are open to collaboration and are so easy to approach with an idea, or are willing to offer assistance.  I don’t have the same academic background as the rest of my colleagues, but I fit in here. There is a synergy within this academic and research community.

Q. What is being an advisor to these students like?

Students first do four rotations in different labs before they decide where they prefer to work. Deciding to do thesis research in a professor’s lab is a mutual agreement entered into by the student and the professor, and specifically mediated by the Student Affairs Committee in my department, Biochemistry. As students become more experienced and comfortable in the lab, they gain more autonomy. It takes years to develop the intuition and understanding needed to plan and execute projects that are successful.  I like to have at least one face-to-face sit down with each student in my lab every week as well as weekly group meetings. It can take some time building up momentum as an advisor. The first five years I advised were completely different from now. I make better decisions now as how to advise people. I’ve learned it’s important to encourage people, and I’ve learned how to encourage them in the right way.  An advisor must figure out each individual’s needs.

Q. What advice would you give to those deciding on their lab placements?

  • The personality of the lab mentor is very important. You need to enjoy working together. The chemistry has to be there. You need to feel it can work, and if not, consider other options.

Q. It seems you’ve grown professionally while here at BUSM, what advice would you give to young faculty members?

  • Get advice from your colleagues.
  • Get others to help you avoid the mistakes that everybody makes.

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about your role as the Associate Director for the Center for Biomedical Mass Spectrometry?

The purpose at the Center is to combine basic technology development to meet the emerging needs of biomedicine. It is essential to glue these two aspects together. I am looking at the biochemistry of connective tissue, which relates to many different disease processes. As part of the lab, I get the opportunity to talk with a lot of people here at BUMC, as well as elsewhere. The work is important to help develop disease therapies, and therefore, feels extremely meaningful. Our work involves development of technology, or more specifically, mass spectrometry, which can be applied to compound classes, such as proteoglycans that are a part of every tissue. This technology is universal and has many applications, from studying cell growth in cancer to Alzheimer’s disease.

Q. How did you become interested in Mass Spectrometry?

I was originally trained as a chemist and I joined a biotech company to study cartilage joint repair. I focused the biochemistry of cartilage, which led to my interest in the chemistry of connective tissue, and I have been working on the clinical application of these methods. My career path has been growing towards the exploitation of proteoglycan biochemistry toward the development of therapeutic targets.

Q. You’ve been a part of the BU community for over ten years. What is it that has kept you here?

BU provides an excellent environment for students, especially in the biochemistry department.  The people in charge of the program really care about the students and are experienced enough to deal with any problems in a very reasonable way. It’s not the type of environment where a student can get lost in the shuffle because there is someone who will check on their progress. The right students are admitted into the program, and they are all very capable.

Q. Any other advice for young scientists?

  • Think about the scientific problem you what to solve. Force yourself to think about what society needs done. There should be something more specific than just ‘I want to do science’.
  • It’s not easy to do be a scientist, and the scientific questions may not be clear to you in your 20’s. So try to figure out what problems are the most important to solve in your career as a scientist. Pay attention!

By:

Margaret Wentworth



Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Andrew Henderson

April 25th, 2011 in Faculty Spotlight

Andrew HendersonMany of us imagine our professors growing up playing with chemistry sets in the garage or assuming that they have no social skills unless you want to talk about their research. Dr. Andrew Henderson thinks these stereotypes are not fair and not only did he not have a chemistry set, he would argue the social part of science such as interactions with students and colleagues has helped him become a creative and innovative scientist.

Q: Can you tell us a little about your educational background?

I am originally from California and attended University of California, Riverside where I earned my BS and MA in Biology and my PhD in Biomedical Sciences. I did my post-doc at Columbia University. It was a big decision for me to venture to the East coast but I wanted to challenge myself both professionally and culturally. I was at the right age and at the right time in my life to take on and appreciate what New York City had to offer.

My first research experience was the summer before my senior year in college. I would joke that my major was soccer and I had no experience or idea what research involved. I was fortunate to find a summer position with a biotech company in San Diego, which turned into a real job following graduation. After working for this biotech company for about a year, I realize that I wanted to have a stronger voice in the direction of science and that could only be possible if I returned to graduate school. However, it was this first experience that got me excited about research and immunology and, probably more importantly, showed me that there were potential careers in science which I had an aptitude for.

Q. How did you ended up here at BUSM then?

There were a number of reasons for my move to BUSM. Professionally, I was at Penn State for about ten years, I had great colleagues and students, and there was a real strength in basic science. However, I thought moving to a medical school would be beneficial to my research program and I would be challenged to think about more translational or clinically relevant questions. It was also important to be at a quality institution that valued good research, had strong graduate programs and had quality people. I wanted an environment that allowed me to be creative and to explore and go in new directions with my research. Your environment and the colleagues you work with are crucial to the creative process in research. Some places I visited (but will refrain from mentioning by name) were intellectual deserts. It is a great misconception to believe that this doesn’t matter. You can’t be creative in a vacuum. One of the great advantages here are the graduate students. They ask questions and bring a fresh perspective to their work. Both students and colleagues can push you in new, exciting ways.

Q. Will you tell us more about the research you are currently involved in?

I am currently interested in HIV latency. I am curious about why drugs do not lower or eradicate HIV infection at a molecular level. We are investigating how cellular signals and biochemical processes positively and negatively regulate HIV expression and whether targeting these events influence the ability of the virus to replicate..

Q. What else are you involved in on the BU Medical Campus?

I am involved in various journal clubs and committees on the campus. I am Chair of the Instutional Biosafety Committee (IBC), which reviews BU laboratory recombinant DNA and Biohazard protocols. Recently, I have become more involved in committees reviewing graduate studies at the medical school.

I am most passionate about my involvement in graduate studies. I truly enjoy the teaching aspect of my job, especially in the lab. Watching a student grow and learn is an amazing experience and makes teaching so worthwhile. My students also push me and move me forward as well.

Q. Advice for students?

• Whatever you decide to do, be passionate and have conviction. Keep in mind most of us spend a lot of time at work, so, enjoy what you do.

• We tend to think there is a fixed path for a career, but in reality there is no such thing as a perfect linear career path. It might take more than four years to finish college or grad school, you might decide to work for a few years or travel, its okay, enjoy and learn from all your experiences. With each experience, you will change and grow. More importantly, these are the experiences that will provide you with the confidence and the maturity to create new opportunities for yourself.

Bringing together passion, optimism, and creativity to the BU community, Dr. Henderson certainly inspires graduate students.

By:
Margaret Wentworth

Spotlight on Students: Crystal Oechsle

April 8th, 2011 in Homepage Spotlights, Student Spotlight

Crystal2Fighting crime can start from GMS!  Often, the most influential information in a court case is built from the evidence obtained at the crime scene and processed in the lab. With all the terrible crimes that can be committed, it is comforting to know there are individuals like Crystal working to gather and analyze essential evidence that identify suspects. Not only has she been practicing forensics at the State Police DNA Unit, but she has been working to create a more effective system to analyze DNA collected from a crime scene.

Q: What program are you in enrolled in and why that program?

I am in the Masters of Science in Biomedical Forensic Science Program. This is my third year in the program attending part-time. I studied forensics and chemistry during my undergraduate studies at Ohio University. Forensic science has so many disciplines, which can be applied to many places. I was working in the State Police DNA Unit and a number of my coworkers were already in the Forensic Science Program at BUSM. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue school, so I took one year off. Then I sat in on a class here. There are not many opportunities like the program at BUSM in Forensic Science.

Q: Recently, you attended a conference and presented a poster. Can you tell us about that experience?

My advisor, Dr. Grgicak pushed me to do the poster. I was initially uncertain as to if this was a good idea, but once I actually saw the poster hanging up in the hallway, it was like: Wow, I did that! I ended up being extremely pleased with the poster and proud of the work I did. Now I am even looking into publishing a paper based on this poster. The poster, titled ‘A Comparative Study of Biological Fluid Identification Methods:  Lateral Flow Immunochromatographic Test Strips and Real-Time PCR Quantitation using Quantifiler® Duo,” presented information on analyzing DNA from sexual assault kits. When analyzing these kits, the initial step is to determine if there is any male DNA and then, if there is, further testing is done to determine the exact DNA.

I presented my poster at the 2010 Annual Meeting for the Northeastern Association of Forensic Scientist. Presenting my poster at the conference allowed me to gain a new appreciation for the peer review process, and I was pleased with the receptive attitude my poster received. It also provided me with interesting feedback and new questions to investigate. The best part of the conference was the free-form case presentations from different labs. It was open to the participants to introduce  their own interesting topics, and was a great opportunity to gain a feel for the experience of different labs throughout the region. The conference taught me that there is still a long way to go in the field and it ignited thoughts of ‘what next’ and ‘where do we go from here’.

Q: What does working in the State Police DNA unit involves?

There are two aspects of the job. One is the crime scene response unit. This means I get to go out to the scene of a crime to collect evidence. Doing so, I get to interact with victims and suspects, although I am really just collecting evidence from them, not asking them questions or interrogating them. The other aspect of the job is criminalistics, which includes working on the evidence in the lab. Overall, I don’t interact frequently with the people involved in the investigation, although I have received a ‘thank you’ from a victim in one case.

Q: Does your job ever require you to testify?

Yes. I am often called to court, but I have only actually testified 10-12 times in four years. Often, when I am called to the courtroom there tends to be a lot of “hurry up and wait” occurring. It’s not like you see on TV.  The courts are unpredictable, and I don’t often actually testify.

Q: What is next for you and your career?

I don’t have a life plan right now. My advisors are definitely encouraging me to continue my education with a PhD, but I am thinking that I need to develop my lab skills and gain more hands on experience in the field. It is a challenging career to have, as one must live near a city with crime to have the most opportunities. My husband recently accepted a job in Chicago and has been living there since this fall.

Q: Wow, how long have you been married for?

We were married in October of 2009. We have been together for ten years, since high school, and it just worked out that we went to the same college after graduating. He moved out here for a year, but had a better opportunity in Chicago. Now it is just me and our Irish Wolfhound, Apollo, who is a gigantic, wonderful dog that requires lots of playtime.

Q: Between working full-time, attending classes, creating posters, maintaining a marriage, and taking care of a dog, what do you do for yourself?

Don’t forget thesis writing and comprehensive tests.  Well, I enjoy being involved in sorority life in Boston. I was in Delta Gamma at Ohio University, and I am able to give back to that organization as the treasurer for a chapter here in Boston.  It is a small chapter, but I am excited to report we have been able to lease a small space for the women of the chapter to gather and organize, and we are now in the process of renovating it.  It has really allowed me to stay connected to my past and connect here in Boston.

Q: Any words of advice for others presenting their posters or interested in the Forensic Science field?

  • It is a rewarding career if you are truly interested in it and can handle it.
  • Take a class if you think you may be interested in Forensic Science; you don’t necessarily have had to be a forensic major to get into the field.
  • For presentations: Be prepared and confident in what you have done.

o   No one else knows what you’ve done or as much as you know about your research.

Crystal Oechsle has given us a small taste of what it means to be involved in the Biomedical Forensic Science Program and the type of opportunities one can gain from this field. While she manages her career, school, a husband, and a personal life with grace and a smile, she is making an impact in the field of forensic science.

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Tara Moore

February 10th, 2011 in Faculty Spotlight

Dr. Tara MooreEstablishing a graduate program is not a simple or easy task. It requires a leader who can organize, plan, and, even more, motivate others. Dr. Tara Moore is such a leader who established not one but two graduate programs: M.S. in Biomedical Forensic Science and M.S. in Forensic Anthropology. It is credit to Dr. Moore’s commitment to graduate education that led to two excellent masters programs at the Boston University School of Medicine campus.

Q: What have some of your roles been here at BUSM?

I am currently the director of the Master of Science in Forensic Anthropology program. Before that program even existed, I was part of the team that established the Biomedical Forensic Science and Forensic Anthropology programs here at the BU School of Medicine. I teach anatomical sciences in the anthropology program and am involved in various studies investigating the effects of cold climate conditions on decomposition. In addition, I am a co-investigator in the Laboratory of Cognitive Neurobiology where I have been involved in the development of a non-human primate model of cortical ischemia.

Q: Can you tell us more about your role in establishing two new programs of study here?

In 2005, there was only one graduate program in Forensic Science in New England. We thought that students wanted to be trained in the field of forensic science and professionals wanted to teach what they knew. This is when we realized that there was a need to establish a graduate program in forensic science here. By the fall of 2006, our program was launched. We recruited faculty from the city of Boston and State crime labs and students from around the country. Currently, Dr. Robin Cotton, a leading expert in the field of DNA identification and analysis of biomedical evidence, is the director of the program. This program now has more than 70 students enrolled, 5 permanent faculty members and several adjunct faculty members from various agencies in New England. Once this program was established, we turned our attention to developing the Masters of Science program in Forensic Anthropology.

Q: Wow, you have been busy the last few years. Can you tell us more about the forensic anthropology program?

Yes, it has been busy, but it has been a lot of fun. I enjoy being the director of the forensic anthropology program. I am also lucky to be working with some amazing faculty members, such as Dr. Siwek as the associate director and Dr. Prince-Zinni, a board certified forensic anthropologist. Dr. Prince-Zinni is also the state forensic anthropologist at the MA office of the chief medical examiner. We also recruited an adjunct instructor from the Massachusetts State Police and two additional full-time faculty members William Powers (retired from the Massachusetts State Police) and Gary Reinecke (retired from the FBI) to teach classes in Crime Scene Investigation, Criminal Law, Homicide Investigation and Major Crime Scene Management and to provide continuing education courses in forensic science and forensic anthropology.  There are currently 25 students in the program, which is just the right size in my opinion. It really provides the faculty the opportunity to get to know the students through one on one interactions.

Q: What else is unique about BU’s Forensic Anthropology program?

The other great aspect of this program is that a number of the courses are focused in techniques and applied studies in forensic anthropology. The program is unique because it is the only forensic anthropology program in a medical school and provides the students with the opportunity to study anatomy and osteology in the Anatomical Sciences Laboratory. Many of the students are exposed to cadavers for the first time in this program. It’s a unique opportunity for them, to connect the perception of dried bones with an actual body. Students also have the opportunity to participate in an internship with Forensic Anthropologist Dr. Murray Marks at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville where they assist Dr. Marks with the analysis of human skeletal remains.

Q: What can students look forward to after they graduate?

They will be well equipped to continue on to a PhD program. For those joining the workforce, there are opportunities in state medical examiners offices, in FBI laboratories, or internationally through the United Nations as one can assist in mass grave recovery. There are also military employment opportunities based in Hawaii, which involve recovering American’s missing from past wars including the Korea and Vietnam wars.

Q: Can you tell us more about your research involving a non-human primate model of cortical ischemia?

I have been involved in a study with Drs. Doug Rosene and Monica Pessina to develop a non-human primate model of cortical ischemia in young and middle-aged monkeys. This project was most recently funded by the National Institute of Aging. The model is designed to test the efficacy of various therapeutic interventions to enhance the recovery of function following stroke.  Potential therapeutics include occupational therapies (e.g. Constrained Induced therapy) and pharmaceutical interventions.

Q: How did you choose BUSM?

I am originally from western Canada, but I became interested in neuroscience and aging after reading an article by Dr. Mark Moss.  I knew I wanted to work with him and it has been wonderful to work with him. I received my PhD from the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology here at BUSM with Drs. Moss, Rosene and Killiany. I then stayed here to complete my post-doctoral training.

Q: Any words of advice for students?

  • Follow your passion
  • Complete an internship or volunteer position in your field before pursuing graduate or medical school. Get a good understanding before jumping in.

Dr. Moore is an exemplary BUSM faculty who is not only passionate about her work, but also committed to improving graduate education.