Category: Faculty Spotlight

Biochemistry Faculty Awards

June 13th, 2013 in Faculty Spotlight, Homepage, test

Congratulations to our GMS faculty Drs. Cathy Costello and Vickery Trinkaus Randall. For more information see Biochemistry.

Costello

Congratulations to Catherine E. Costello for her appointment as a William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor, which was just announced by President Brown! This is major university honor, recognizing Cathy’s superlative scientific accomplishments and scholarly contributions. This is the first time the professorship has been awarded to a faculty member whose primary appointment is at the medical school. Additional information Professorship.

 

Trinkaus-RandleCongratulations to Dr. Vickery Trinkaus-Randall who was recognized with the GMS Faculty Recognition Award for her years of tireless efforts on behalf on all of the students of GMS.  Dr. Trinkaus-Randall has served as the Director of Graduate Studies for the CMB Program, taking each student under her wing from the date of matriculation to the day of graduation.  In addition, Dr. Trinkaus-Randall has been instrumental in creating the Foundations in Biomedical Sciences curriculum and one of the newest GMS initiatives, the Program in Biomedical Sciences.

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. R. Jarrett Rushmore III

July 1st, 2012 in Faculty Spotlight, Homepage Spotlights

R. Jarrett Rushmore III, PhD
Assistant Professor
Graduate Director for the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology

A faculty member, active researcher, student mentor, husband and recent father, Dr. Jarrett Rushmore, Assistant Professor in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, balances all of his responsibilities with enthusiasm and grace.10.12.12 Rushmore, Jarrett

What brought you to BUSM?

I started at Boston University as a laboratory technician in 1995 after graduating from Trinity College with a background in Neuroscience. I joined the doctoral program in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology and performed research about how brain circuits in the visual system respond to damage.  After completing my doctoral degree, I was recruited to stay at BUSM as a faculty member.

Are you involved in any research at the moment?

I’m really interested in how the brain responds to damage, and then recovers from damage. Most recovery after brain damage is quite limited, and so we have been using non-invasive brain stimulation to train the brain circuits that mediate recovery and improve function after brain damage.

You have many roles within GMS.  Can you tell me about some of them?

Sure. I serve on a variety of committees, but most of my time revolves around teaching or advising students.  In the medical school, I teach in the Medical Histology and Medical Neuroscience courses.  I also teach to graduate students in the Cellular Organization of Tissues.  I serve as the director of the graduate programs in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology.  I’m also an advisor for the Master of Arts in Medical Sciences students, and also serve on the Academy of Advisors in the medical school.

Can you tell me about the Anatomy and Neurobiology Masters and PhD programs?

The Master’s degree in Anatomy and Neurobiology is called the Vesalius program after Andreas Vesalius, the father of Anatomy.  Vesalius was remarkable not only for his anatomical drawings, but because he was one of the first people to actually teach Anatomy.  As part of their first year curriculum, our students take medical gross anatomy, medical neuroscience and medical histology, and come back in their second year and teach medical and graduate students in these very same courses. The students find this experience transformative – both in their understanding of the discipline, and in the development of their confidence to become first-rate academicians.

The doctoral program is also unique.  We tailor the curriculum to the individual doctoral student, and have three curricular tracks to reflect the interests of the students (Anatomy, Neurobiology, or Anatomy and Neurobiology).  These students are outstanding, particularly in their cutting edge research in the neurosciences or in the anatomical sciences.  However, what really distinguishes these students is that they also become expert educators in the discipline.  They are closely and intensively trained to teach biomedical sciences to medical, graduate, and dental students.  As a result, our students have had great success in a tight job market, and many are offered faculty positions in academic medical centers directly upon receiving their degree.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part of my job is balancing the different aspects of the job.  There are a lot of different aspects of a faculty member, and thinking about how best to solve a scientific problem is a very different way to think from how to best teach a particular concept, or to produce an effective policy.  It’s a challenge, but it also helps me understand how my brain works, which as a neuroscientist is something I like to think about.

What is the best part of your job?

Well, I love science and I really enjoy teaching – these are the hallmarks of this job.  One thing I didn’t expect was discovering that one of the best things about my job is the students.  The medical and graduate students I advise and teach and work with in the lab are simply outstanding people.  They are incredibly accomplished people, they are clever and smart, they have explored the world, they think about their place in the world and actively think how to make the world a better place.  They are unique, interesting, passionate, and inspiring.

How do you like to spend your time outside of BUSM?

My time outside BU is mostly spent with my family.  My wife and I have a nine-month-old daughter who has just started to crawl. We have also recently experienced the joy of new home ownership, so I’ve recently spent some time killing hornets, chasing groundhogs, and realizing that I’m a really bad carpenter.

Do you have any advice for current students or prospective students?

I think that what really sets BU apart from other research programs is the level of engagement by the faculty.  I think the faculty at BU have a culture in which they go to extraordinary lengths to mentor, help, and support graduate students. All the faculty I know have an open-door policy, and they spend a tremendous time mentoring, teaching and just talking to students.  They always have time for questions, regardless if they are in the middle of a grant or preparing a lecture, and go out of their way to make sure students are doing well.  I’m very proud to be a part of this.   This level of engagement and commitment amazes students who have been undergraduates or graduate student in other institutions, and they are quite simply taken aback by how much the faculty really care about how they are doing.  My advice is that students should take advantage of this really unique and special environment.

Spotlight on Faculty: Dr. Gene Blatt

December 15th, 2011 in Faculty Spotlight, Homepage Spotlights

Dr. Gene Blatt PHOTOWhen faced with administrative meetings, teaching, laboratory research, and writing publishable articles and books on a daily basis, coming to work can seem daunting.  For Dr. Gene Blatt, Professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology, multi-tasking is the key to perform at his exemplary level in all these areas.  Making greats strides in autism research while participating in multiple facets of the Boston University community, Dr. Blatt easily earns the respect of his colleagues and students.

You recently attended a meeting in Washington, DC on autism.  What was that experience like?

The meeting was over the course of three days, and there were approximately 300 attendees.  Overall, the meeting presented a global view of the state of autism research.  There was focus on genetics, animal models, cognition, and behavior from many different experts in the field through oral presentations as well as poster presentations.

You actively research autism.  Can you tell me a bit about your research?

My research focuses on neuropathology and neurochemistry of autism using post mortem human tissue.  Obtaining both frozen and fixed tissue from brain banks, including the one at McLean Hospital, we cut thin 20 to 40 micron sections and mount them on slides.  With the formalin fixed sample, we stain the tissue to see the cellular cytoarchitecture of the brain using NISSL to determine if there are any abnormalities present within specific brain areas.  With the fresh frozen samples, we dip sections of the tissue in radioactively tagged ligand solutions to label neurotransmitter receptors and transporters.  The radioactivity on the slides is shown on film is then quantified.  The neurotransmitter profile in brain regions in individuals with autism, are compared to age and gender matched controls of individuals without autism.  Thus far, the research has shown that there is a profound defect in the inhibitory GABA system in the brains of people with autism.

How did you get into research on autism?

I earned my Ph.D. degree from Thomas Jefferson University studying the cerebellum, and then went to Salk Institute for two years for a post-doctorate position working in neurophysiology.  When I came to BUSM, I worked with Dr. Rosene researching the limbic system.  In the late 1990′s, I was completely inspired to change my research focus upon meeting Dr. Margaret Bauman, a pediatric neurologist, who showed me slides from autism cases that had similar abnormalities in the cerebellum and limbic system.  Very few people have the opportunity to engage in significant research that combines every aspect of their education.  Slowly, I made a transition from mainly animal research to pursue post-mortem human research.  The transition was timely as autism research was just becoming a burgeoning field that was receiving much attention.

Do you think the research on autism has made significant progress, or do you think we still have a long way to go before we fully understand autism?

Autism is a heterogeneous disorder, which means that there are many different factors to consider, such as genetics, environment, immunology, and even a mother’s condition during pregnancy.  The progress in the field is progressing as new technologies emerge.  I am currently collaborating with a lab in London who is performing a three-year study on children with autism using a new imaging technique, Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS).  This technique allows for the sampling of a particular part of the brain in an MR scan, and MRS shows how the neurochemical levels of specific brain areas are impacted.  This in vivo research with the London lab supplements my in vitro studies of the post mortem brains here are BUSM.  Collectively, there is more awareness of autism today, and it remains unclear why the prevalence rates are increasing although better diagnosis may be a contributing factor.

As well as being a professor in Anatomy and Neurobiology, you are involved with a number of administrative committees, such as the Academic Policies Committee (APC).  What pushed you to become so involved in such activities?

Participation on a department-wide, division-wide, campus-wide, and university-wide level is critical to understand the workings of the institution.  All GMS faculty should participate to some degree, and I joined the APC about seven years ago.  After a year, I was nominated by Dr. Franzblau and voted for by the committee to be the Chair.  Mostly all of the current MA and MS programs were approved since then.  It is a very busy committee.  I also serve as the liaison to the Ph.D. Steering Committee, as Chair for the Faculty Appointments and Promotions Committee for  the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, as a member of the Department Qualifying Examination Committee, as a member of the department Faculty Search Committee, as a member of the GMS By-laws Committee, as a MA in Medical Sciences faculty advisor and conduct mock interviews for MA students, as an Advisor-At-Large for the Crumpler Academy of Advisors, and as an interviewer for potential M.D./Ph.D students.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Along with teaching lectures in some graduate-level courses in GMS, I also teach medical students in Neuroscience and Medical Histology.  Teaching is very important to me, but I am also very committed to research.  I am constantly working to keep up with current projects and new information on autism.  The best part of my job is that there is a balance between teaching, research, and administrative duties.  On top of that, I do a great deal of writing.  Though it can be hard to find time to write in between everything else, my lab produces between three and five journal articles a year, as well as one or two book chapters a year.  And there is always a grant to write.  Last year I edited and contributed to a book, The Neurochemical Basis of Autism: From Molecules to Minicolumns with Springer Publishers.

What do you enjoy doing outside of your office, lab, and Boston University?

I am an avid golfer, and I love nature.  My Master’s degree had an emphasis in Ornithology and Field Biology.  Much of my time outside BU is spent outdoors hiking or bird watching.  I spend a lot of time with my wife, and my son and daughter-in-law who recently had our first grandchild.  I love being a grandpa!

Do you have any advice for GMS students?

I agree with the philosophy that I quickly learned from Dr. Deborah Vaughan in Medical Histology when I first came to BUSM in the 1980s: It is so important to be an active learner.  Understand the material rather than just memorize it; work in study groups; ask your teachers questions because we are here to help you. From one of my mentors here, Dr. Douglas Rosene, I learned that if you plan to go into research, make sure you choose a productive talented lab team that will provide good training and involve yourself in many interesting and creative projects.  Learning multiple techniques will allow you to build a repertoire of skills to tackle projects in many different ways.  Finally, take the same active attitude to research as you do to teaching and learning: make it a priority to contribute to your field, through talks, collaborations, and publications. Receiving valuable feedback is essential to deepen your understanding of your research endeavors.

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 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

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.

Spotlight on Faculty: Dr. Stephen Brady

November 19th, 2010 in Faculty Spotlight

Steve brady for siteDr. Stephen Brady, Director of the Mental Health Counseling and Behavioral Medicine Program in the Division of GMS, and an Associate Professor of Psychiatry is not only passionate about his work and career but intensely interested in engaging students in conversation whether in or outside of class. Dr. Brady would often give lectures without a single PowerPoint slide, yet all students become captivated by his knowledge and enthusiasm. Dr. Brady cherishes new challenges and experiences that his professional life bring and hopes to continue to infuse new ways to get students interested and motivated about learning.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your personal and educational background?

I received my B. A. Degree in Sociology at the University of Florida and then attended the University of California Santa Barbara for my M.A. and PhD degrees in Counseling Psychology. I also completed a Predoctoral Internship and PostDoctoral Fellowship at the University of California- San Diego.

Q: What are your current research interests?

There are two areas of scholarly interest I have maintained over the past 20+ years. I am interested in gay and lesbian identity development as well as HIV prevention in people with mental illness. Most recently, in 2010 I was awarded a five-year, National Institute of Mental Health Grant to study the effectiveness of an HIV prevention intervention our research group has developed and piloted with people with severe mentally illness. Over the course of the study we will recruit patients with current mental illness who are also engaging in high risk behavior for HIV. We intend to randomly assign 300+ participants to either our experimental intervention or to care as usual. We will then examine changes in risk behavior at 3, 6 and 12 months post-intervention. In order to complete this study I am working closely with a number of faculty associated with the Mental Health Counseling and Behavioral Medicine Program including core faculty Drs. Berger-Greenstein and Levy-Bell.

Q: What led you to pursue research on mentally ill at risk for contracting HIV?

My early clinical work with the LGBT community in the beginning of the AIDS epidemic was really the catalyst for my interest in both gay identity and later HIV prevention for people with mental illness. Most of my early gay male patients and many of my friends and colleagues died from HIV/AIDS in the 1980’s. My dissertation examined gay identity development and its relationship to psychological well being and one of my hypotheses was that untreated mental disorders may lead people to engage in sexual and drug risk behavior. At the same time I also completed a number of clinical rotations with people with mental illnesses and along with some key collaborators began to describe and examine how people with serious mental disorders regardless of sexual orientation might be at high risk for HIV.  Indeed since our early work in this area a good deal of research has examined the increased risk among this cohort. I am chiefly interested in clinical interventions that can reduce risk taking in vulnerable groups including people with mental illnesses.

Q: You have many roles throughout the BU and the Medical Campus. Can you tell us about some of these?

Well, my number one role is as the director of the Mental Health Counseling and Behavioral Medicine program in the Division of GMS. I was actually one of the faculty in charge of creating the program almost a decade ago.   My second priority here is my role as the PI of the HIV study as discussed. I also am involved in the University as a whole as an Officer of the Faculty Council at BU and serve on several committees at both campuses.

Q: If you had to choose only one of these roles, which one would you choose?

I really love them all. In addition to the roles I outlined I also have a small psychotherapy practice, which I wouldn’t give up even though I am so involved here at BUSM. I like all of it and I enjoy the opportunity to do so many different things.  However, being engaged in so many different areas makes it difficult to be a leader in any one field.

Q:  Do you have any words of wisdom for graduate students here at BUSM?

Being good at anything demands lifelong learning. It doesn’t end with an academic education.

It is extremely hard work being successful. Success mainly comes from working hard and requires a sustained effort.

Q: What about tips for students trying to build a successful career in academic research?

It is important for those interested in research to have good training as well as effective mentoring.  I didn’t have a mentor early in my career and this meant that developing a research portfolio was a great challenge. However, I never gave up and eventually was able to develop the necessary skill set.

Q: Any other words of guidance or inspiration?

I work harder and I am happier in my career the older I get.

It is a great gift to have a career that has meaning as part of one’s legacy.

Dr. Brady is an example of how hard work and persistence helps countless individuals with mental illness to reduce the spread of HIV. Certainly, Dr. Brady’s career is the gold standard for GMS students to aspire to be.

GMS Student,

Maggie Wentworth

Spotlight on Faculty: Dr. Jamie Mcknight

October 14th, 2010 in Faculty Spotlight

Dr. Mcknight 1-Dr. Jamie Mcknight-

For some people, a job is just a job, a place to sit and pass the day while they wait to go home. This is not the case for Dr. Jamie McKnight, Associate Professor of Physiology and Biophysics, who has been at Boston University since 1995. In fact, you could say BU has long been a part of Dr. McKnight’s family. His association with Boston University goes back twenty years, to when his wife first joined BU at the Charles River campus and is still there, currently as Chair of Humanities. Dr. McKnight’s daughter spent the first three years of her life in a BU dormitory as a toddler and now currently attends BU. It is obvious how Dr. McKnight feels at home and comfortable at BUSM.

Dr. McKnight warmly welcomed me into his office for an interview without much notice, even offering refreshments and happily answering the following questions:

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

A:  Well I’ve been at BU for 15 years, although my wife has been on the Charles River campus for twenty. Before that I worked on my Postdoctoral Fellow at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research,  at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I received my PHD at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas in Biochemistry. I earned my Bachelors in chemistry at Washington College, Chestertown, Maryland.

Q: What lead you to pursue a career in academic biomedical research?

A:  I’ve always been interested in science. I began studying organic chemistry, but became interested in physiology and cell biology courses. I did consider an industry career, but academic research just provided more benefits.  One, I’ve always liked students. Two, I figured it would be easier to switch from an academic to research track than the other way around.  Probably most significant was the prospect of studying whatever I want. Academic research allows me to choose what I want to study.

Q: What are your current research interests?

A: Currently, I am focusing on the structure and function of proteins. The main focus is the structure, assembly and secretion of very low density lipoprotein, the precursor of low density lipoprotein (“bad cholesterol”) and its interactions with microsomal triglyceride transfer protein (MTP) a required cofactor for lipoprotein secretion.

Q: You have been actively involved in graduate education here in GMS. Please, tell us about these activities:

A: I have been an Associate Professor of Physiology and Biophysics for the last five year, was the Assistant Professor of Physiology and Biophysics before that. I direct the Boston University School of Medicine Core Facility for Structural NMR, I am part of the integrated curriculum committee for PHD students and part of the Responsible Conduct of Research committee. I’ve been on the Physiology & Biophysics Student Affairs and Admission Committee for over a decade and was its chair for five years.

Q: What were your reasons for establishing your career at a strong research oriented medical school?

A:  Well, there is access to a lot more resources at a research oriented medical school. Really though, I love doing stuff that is new, I love designing new experiments. I love pushing the limits of scientific knowledge. One of the great advantages of this particular medical school is the research environment is outstanding here, due in no small part to my colleagues. There is a significant amount of collaboration here. You can just go to another colleague for advice outside of your specialty, you don’t need to make appointments months in advances.

Q: Do you have any words of wisdom for graduate students here at BUSM?

A: If you don’t know then just ask

  • Learn as much as you can.
  • Immerse yourself in what you are doing.
  • Attend some seminars in which you know nothing about topic but are vaguely interested in.

Q: What tips do you have for students on how to build a successful career in academic research and graduate education?

A: Pay attention to people’s names and network. Network! Network!  Network! Go to meetings and meet people there. Just introduce yourself. Try not to say “No” if you can. Don’t be afraid to let your path drift. It is great to have an idea of what you want and are interested in, but stay open to exploring new subjects. Find a postdoctoral advisor that is well connected.

Q: Any other words of guidance or inspiration?

A: Always be a good citizen. And be extremely honest.

Hopefully these words will not go unheard by the students of GMS. Dr. McKnight certainly has an abundance of insightful and worthwhile wisdom still to impart to the developing minds of BUSM. Motivated, dedicated, respectful, warm and friendly, Dr. McKnight is an example of why BUSM is an excellent place to study for developing scientists.

By GMS student,

Margaret Bailey Wentworth.