GMS wishes you a safe and enjoyable Independence Day weekend! The last day of...
PhD Candidate, Molecular & Translational Medicine
What brought you to BU?
I applied to BU because of its unique location in the biomedical hub of Boston. My research background as an undergraduate was rooted in the clinic and my goal as a Ph.D. student was to have my lab bench be as close to clinicians, hospitals and patients as possible, yet still have access to great engineers and chemists. The BU medical campus seemed to have these interdisciplinary networks established and I thought it would be a great match and it really has been. Furthermore, BU felt very student focused and I could see that I would be given the creative freedom to shape my thesis and my experiences here as a student.
What program are you in?
Because I wanted to continue to do research that translated to patient health, I chose to apply to the Molecular and Translational Medicine (MTM) Ph.D. program, which is through the Department of Medicine. MTM is also wonderful in its diversity of research fields. Before I came here I was unsure if I wanted to continue work in nutrition and metabolism or jump into infectious diseases and being an MTM student allowed me the flexibility to make that decision during my first year.
What kind of research are you involved in?
My research is within the field of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). I find research within this field to be incredibly important because STIs affect female reproductive health particularly in underprivileged communities. To better understand how the female reproductive tract responds to infections, I study epithelial cell biology in response to Neisseria gonorrhoeae. I am primarily interested in cell to cell communication and how N. gonorrhoeae may influence these communication lines to alter cell death and inflammation in neighboring cells.
What do you hope to do after you earn your degree?
After my degree I plan to find a great postdoctoral fellowship! As for the distant future, I hope to continue to research in infectious diseases and have a greater role in science policy at the NIH or CDC.
You were elected as the new GMSSO President.
I love all the community service we do with the Blood Drives and Rosie’s Place and the VA. I also really enjoy working and planning with students outside my program that I would not normally see. It’s a community for me. As president specifically, I have the unique opportunity to work with GMS faculty and that has been really neat and insightful too. Running GMSSO is hard work and pulls me in several directions but I find it to be an outlet for me. It helps me keep momentum even when lab life is hard and frustrating.
Are you involved in many activities on campus?
I have been a TA for FiBS module IV for two years and a peer mentor for our first year PiBS students. I try to participate in art events here on campus and I am also a liaison for sustainability @ BU.
What is your favorite part of your life as a student?
Community! And wondering where in the world we will be in 10 years.
What do you enjoy doing outside of BU?
I love new adventures and new hobbies and I am therefore very mediocre at many things. But I always have running and cooking and music in my life. I have wonderful people too.
Do you have any advice for current students?
Do not take graduate school personally. It is supposed to push you beyond your comfort and make you question yourself and your abilities. It is part of the process to become great.
How did you first become interested in science?
I have loved science since I was a child. My parents worked in teaching and business, so I had no direct connection to the field, but I ended up majoring in chemistry at the University of Virginia and developed a passion for biochemistry. When I first started my undergraduate career, I planned on attending medical school, but instead I chose to take a research position at Boston University after graduating. While working in the lab, I took a few courses and ultimately enrolled in a program at the medical school and earned my Ph.D. in Biochemistry. I studied the thrombin receptor on human platelets.
Have you been at BUSM ever since earning you Ph.D. degree?
Yes, and after earning my Ph.D., I became a postdoctoral fellow in the Biochemistry department, continuing the research I completed for my dissertation. I actually started my family (twins) when I was finishing my dissertation, and I had a wonderful mentor in this lab who really taught me how to be both a scientist and a mom. After my postdoctoral position, I became an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and started research in the area of Alzheimer’s disease. I looked at the role of platelets in amyloid deposition using a blood brain barrier. Around this time, I again had two more sons, and saw how women can really have a fruitful career as a scientific researcher and a family. My job evolved as I took on administrative roles and began advising students in the M.A. in Medical Sciences (MAMS) program. It is very fulfilling to help students apply to medical / dental schools and watch as they accomplish their goals.
You recently created a M.S. in Oral Health Sciences (OHS) program, previously a track in MAMS. Can you tell me about the program?
This graduate program allows students interested in dentistry the opportunity to improve their credentials for dental school admission. Originally a track within the MA Medical Sciences (MAMS) program, OHS students were able to take first-year dental courses at the BU Goldman School of Dentistry and prove their aptitude. Now that the Oral Health Sciences program is separate from the MAMS program, we will begin to offer new courses specific to pre-dental students, such as the Evidence-Based Dentistry course I recently developed.
What other roles do you play on the Medical Campus?
As with all faculty I wear many hats. I serve on several administrative and admissions committees for both the Medical School and for GMS. I co-teach a Biomedical Information course, which helps students with thesis writing skills, as well as serve as the Course Director for 2 new courses entitled Evidence Based Dentistry and Fundamentals of Head and Neck Anatomy.
A very exciting project that I have recently been involved with involves designing and testing a novel mobile app for the Finding Information Framework (or FiF) which assists medical students with Evidence-Based Medicine. Additionally I host webinars as a recruitment tool for the Oral Health Sciences program and am involved with improving and maintaining the GMS website, a job which has been quite the learning experience. I found that I really like building and designing the web pages, and though it can be challenging, website development has been very rewarding for me.
What is the most interesting part of your job?
I love helping students realize their dreams and accomplish their goals. Ultimately, their success is my success. I push my students to work hard while they are here at GMS, but also offer them support, encouragement (and compassion) when the coursework is challenging. I have also had to learn how to balance my professional and personal life, which has not always been easy! But I am very happy that I have not had to sacrifice one for the other, and I can say that I truly love my job.
What is the most challenging?
Balancing all of my responsibilities. My year is very cyclic, so I am never doing the same task for very long before a new one takes its place. Whether it’s teaching, reviewing theses, admissions or website work, or medical/dental school application assistance I am always doing something different, depending on the time of year. Every year varies as well because I have a new cohort of students who I love to get to know. My job is not as repetitive as it may seem, even though I continually have the same responsibilities due to my colleagues and students.
What do you like to do outside of BUSM?
I have four children, ages fourteen through twenty-eight, and we are all very active. My younger children, my husband, and I love spending time outside, especially camping. I also love reading and going to the beach. I am actively involved in my church community teaching, boy scouts and even help with the website for the high school crew team, which one of my sons participates on.
Do you have any advice for current GMS students?
It is important to follow your dreams and passions, and not to give up or let anyone discourage you. Students should find what fits into their life and is interesting to them, and pursue it. When you commit to a program, be prepared to work hard and give the time it takes to be successful. With perseverance and support, and at times a little luck, you will be successful.
The Boston University Graduate Research Symposium was held on March 31, 2015. Over the past two decades, this event honors and celebrates the research accomplishments of our graduate students and we are proud to announce that the School of Medicine winners of the 2015 Graduate Research Symposium are:
Philip Montenigro for his abstract entitled “Beta-amyloid in chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Alzheimer’s disease, and normal aging: evidence for non-overlapping etiologies”. Philip’s advisor is Dr. Thor Stein.
Alexander Hua for his abstract entitled “Control of Pancreatic Cancer through PPAR-alpha”. Alexander’s advisor is Dr. Simon Levy.
We want to extend our congratulations to the winners as well as to their advisors! We also want to congratulate each and every participant, ALL of whom received high scores for their presentations. It was a great day for BUSM!
We also want to offer a very special thank you to all of the judges who took time out of their busy schedules to participate.
GMS Student Art Exhibit
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
GMS Office, Room L-317
Please join the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences for a Student Art Exhibit
Paintings and Photographs Presented by:
Yvette Joon Ying Boon, Daniel Zumsteg, and Megan Varnum
Refreshments will be served.
Please join us for the 2015 MAMS Symposium
April 15, 2015
3:30pm – 5:30pm