Category: Student Spotlight

Spotlight on MD/PhD Student: Chad Mayer

March 11th, 2014 in Homepage Spotlights, Student Spotlight

Chad Mayer
MD/PhD Candidate
Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine

Chad Mayer

What brought you to BU?
I decided in college that I wanted to pursue medicine as a career as a way to bring together my love of science and desire to help people in life-altering ways.  While in college I had the chance to get involved in research with one of my professors, and after graduation continued in biomedical research in Seattle.  I have always loved Boston and New England, so I was thrilled when I was accepted to the program here at Boston University, matriculating in 2009.

What program are you in?
I am currently finishing up the PhD portion of the MD/PhD dual-degree program here at Boston University, and am anticipating returning to the 3rd year of medical school this summer.  I have been earning my PhD in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

What kind of research are you involved in?
My research involved better understanding how toxins secreted by certain species of E. coli cause tissue damage, and how both the toxins and that tissue damage compromise endothelial function.  Infection with this bacterium is a leading cause of acute kidney injury in otherwise healthy children, with no current therapies beyond supportive, and I hope that the translational work we are doing will point others in the direction of possible therapies.

What do you hope to do after you earn your degree?
After earning my degree I would like to pursue a residency and fellowship program that combines clinical experience with research training.  I have really enjoyed my experiences tutoring and being on committees here at BU, and would want to work at an academic medical center where there are ample opportunities to mentor students and teach others about all the exciting things medicine and science have to offer.

You were recently awarded the Keystone Award.
The award helps minority students to travel to the national MD/PhD conference in Keystone, CO.  This is a conference run by the MD/PhD students there and is an exciting opportunity to learn about other programs and network on a national level.

Are you involved in many activities on campus?
One great advantage of the MD/PhD program is that during the PhD years students have the opportunity to get involved in a much deeper way on campus.  As such MD/PhD students make up the majority of the tutors for courses such as DRx in BUSM II.  I have been tutoring DRx for 3 years, since taking my USMLE 1.  In addition, I was elected to be one of the MD/PhD student representatives on the admissions committee, and this is my second year helping to decide which of the many excellent candidates will interview and ultimately be accepted to Boston University’s MD/PhD program.  Finally, along with some other MD/PhD students I helped to start a monthly seminar focusing on success stories in scientific careers where we have had the opportunity to hear from some amazing speakers.  I have greatly enjoyed the opportunities that I have had and I hope that wherever I go I can continue to work in whatever program I am in to improve it.

What is your favorite part of your life as a student?
My favorite part of life as a student and an MD/PhD is the way I can make my own opportunities with the support of the faculty here at BU.   Stepping into leadership during my PhD years I have really enjoyed getting involved, and the way so many of the faculty are so approachable and support students’ visions for new interest groups and opportunities really gives students a chance to make their years at the School of Medicine their own personal experience.

What do you enjoy doing outside of BU?
Outside of BU I am very involved in my church and spend a lot of time driving around New England, going on day and weekend trips to the several states we border.  Being from the California and Washington, I’m still not over how easy it is to be in a different state in 30 minutes, and love exploring all the historical towns.  I am also a homebrewer and have enjoyed making up personal beer recipes and sampling the beers other students have brewed!

Do you have any advice for current students?
Don’t think of your program as something to get through.  Networking as you go along and joining committees or starting new seminars can get you recognized on campus and bring opportunities your way you didn’t know existed.  Get involved early while you have time, and work to improve things and make the changes you want to see happen!

Spotlight on Postdoc: Juliane Hirnet

March 11th, 2014 in Homepage Spotlights, Student Spotlight

Juliane Hirnet
Postdoctoral Fellow
Viglianti Lab, Department of Microbiology

Juliane Hirnet

What brought you to BU?
I did my PhD work in Germany in a Russian-German collaboration project, during which I spent some time in a Russian lab. After finishing the PhD I wanted to do a postdoc in an English-speaking country. I was very open regarding the geographical location (mostly US and UK) and applied at several universities, including BU. My PhD thesis was about polioviruses and I wanted to stay in the area of virology, so when I heard about a postdoc position in Prof. Viglianti’s lab in the Department of Microbiology at BUMC, I applied. He liked me and here I am.

What kind of research are you involved in?
My current project is investigating HIV escape mutants from rosiglitazone treatment. Rosiglitazone is an approved drug used to treat diabetes, but it also has restrictive effects on HIV replication.  Using the mutants I try to uncover the mechanism with which rosiglitazone effects HIV. We also recently started a new interesting project looking into interactions of gingivitis-causing bacteria and HIV infections.

You recently started the post-doc blog, can you tell me about it?

postdoc blog
As the comic above demonstrates postdocs are often invisible at research institutions, the postdoc blogs gives postdocs an opportunity to read and write about things that are important to them, which are often very different from the topics important to PhD students or faculty. I also hope that PhD students and faculty read it and maybe raise awareness of postdocs, so we don’t stay “ghosts”.

Since the current funding situation isn’t very good, I have been looking into alternative careers and science writing was something I am interested in, the postdoc blog is also a good way for me to practice writing and learning about publishing and editing. Currently it is mostly me doing the writing, but every postdoc at BU is certainly invited to contribute.

Are you involved in many activities on campus?
I am a member of the Postdoc advisory committee, which meets every three months to discuss postdoc issues with administrators and faculty. Currently we are working on a mentoring program for postdocs.

What do you enjoy doing outside of BU?
Postdocs work a lot and when we don’t work we think about work…I also enjoy traveling, back to Europe to see my family and around New England on weekend trips.

Do you have any advice for current students?
It is crucially important to start thinking about the future early, just getting the PhD, even a brilliant one, is no longer enough to secure a job or funding. Start applying for postdocs even before you start writing your thesis and go to as many networking events as possible.

 

 

Spotlight on PhD Student: Kathleen Goodmon

March 11th, 2014 in Homepage Spotlights, Student Spotlight

Kathleen Goodmon
PhD Candidate, Molecular & Translational Medicine

KGoodmonWhat 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.

 

Spotlight on Student: Fadie Coleman

December 31st, 2013 in Homepage Spotlights, Student Spotlight

Fadie Coleman, PhD Candidate
Department of Microbiology

Not all people are lucky enough to find a career they are passionate about, but Fadie Coleman, PhD candidate in the Department of Fadie-150x150Microbiology, has found two. A researcher and a teacher, she pursued a doctorate degree to combine both her career interests into one. Actively involved in the GMS community, she serves as a positive role model for what happens when you reach for your goals.

What brought you to BU?

I started at BU as an undergraduate student. It was in undergrad that I came to realize my penchant for research and teaching, which has provided me with a great and lasting experience. Through a listing at BU, I discovered a college summer internship at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. After getting a taste of doing research, I found myself drawn to academic medicine. Taking the information gleaned from a senior-year career-counseling survey, I found myself drawn to teaching, and I became a classroom science teacher straight out of college. I taught middle school chemistry and physical science, and a few years later I taught high school biology, physical science, and an advanced elective in animal behavior that I designed. However, in between my teaching middle and high school, I actually did an extensive stint in biomedical research at the Channing Laboratory of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. It was at this point that I started to consider graduate school because I knew that I wanted to continue to pursue my education in the sciences, academia in particular. When I spoke to my mentor and friends in the field about my decision, they all said the same thing: “make sure you go to a school/program that will prepare you to become an independent scientist and where mentoring is a main focus.” I explored my alma mater, Boston University, because I heard great things about their graduate program. On my interview day, it did not take long for me to appreciate and admire the collegiate atmosphere among the researchers and faculty. But, what stood out for me that day was that the graduate program is student-driven and matched my learning style perfectly. I could remember saying to myself, “I can tell that I am going to get an excellent training here.”

What program are you in?

I am a PhD graduate student in the department of Microbiology, fulfilling my thesis work in the Pulmonary Center under the mentorship of Joseph Mizgerd, ScD. I am very interested in infectious disease, immunology, and host-pathogen interactions. My graduate thesis work is on the study of pneumonia, with a specific focus on pneumococcal pneumonia (a bacterial pneumonia), which is a major cause of disease worldwide and causes significant morbidity and mortality in the U.S. I study pulmonary immunity and its critical role during bacterial lung infection and host defense. Currently, my focus is on the macrophage-pneumococcal interaction during pneumonia. We are working on designing a tool that would allow for a way to predict which bacteria in the community are more likely to cause disease as well as come up with therapeutic approaches to help protect against infection.

What do you hope to do after you earn your degree?

After completing my PhD, I plan to continue my research training by doing a postdoctoral fellowship focusing on lung immunity and host-pathogen interactions. I have aspirations of being a contributor to the advancement of science and making a mark as an independent researcher. They say that you can do anything with a PhD degree and I plan to do just that by looking for ways to weave my love for research, teaching/mentoring and writing into a career.

You recently helped with Program in Biomedical Sciences (PiBS) Recruitment Day. How was that experience?

Helping with PiBS Recruitment Day was really a great experience! PiBS is just another reason why I believe BU is truly a unique place to study. I was very happy to serve as a volunteer for Recruitment Day because I felt it would provide me with the perfect opportunity to share with prospective students all of what BU has to offer. There are some things that are not easily communicated through the literature and statistics, and it takes one-on-one conversations to fully convey. An example of this is what I believe is one of the graduate program’s major strengths—mentoring/individual attention. The PiBS Recruitment Day was different from past years, and really embraced the idea of an umbrella program. It was good to be able to talk to candidates, even if they ultimately end up in a department outside of Microbiology. I think this program sets up a greater collegiate environment and encourages collaboration beyond specific disciplines.

Are you involved in any other activities on campus?

This year, I am serving as a Microbiology Department student representative, which is a student-elected position that I consider a true honor. My role is to represent the Microbiology student body as one cohesive voice and to serve as a conduit between the students and faculty/staff. I also serve as a student representative on the Graduate Medical Sciences Student Organization (GMSSO) and as an academic tutor for the Dental Microbiology course. Between these roles and my research, I am kept very busy.

What do you enjoy doing outside of BU?

My family means everything to me. My daughter and husband and extended family and friends are my biggest support system and they are the people I surround myself with when I am away from the lab/school. A lot of our family activities revolve around the arts, and Boston readily provides opportunities to enjoy an array of diverse performance and visual events. My husband is a musician, and my nine-year-old daughter is very involved in dance, music, and theatre. Musicals, concerts, museums, and plays are regular events for my household. We’re so excited about the upcoming spring and summer days. Now that the weather is starting to get nice, we’ll be able to spend a lot more time outdoors and playing in the park.

Do you have any advice for current students?

Take the time as a graduate student to learn about what motivates you—your passion. Use these years to develop your work ethic and challenge yourself to always reach for the stars. Look to your classmates, peers, faculty, mentors, and staff for support and remember to return the favor. Remember that it is okay to strive for the big things, but make sure to appreciate the small along the way. It’s the little things/moments in lab and life in general that will carry you through the graduate experience.

Spotlight on MS Student: Rebekah Gould

December 1st, 2013 in Homepage Spotlights, Student Spotlight

WGould, Rebekahhat drove you to pursue a career in science?

Science was always secondary to dentistry. From as far back as I can remember I have wanted to be a dentist, and naturally, I found myself interested in science. Growing up, I had a strong relationship with my own pediatric dentist and orthodontist, and I really admired him. When it came time to attend college, I decided to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with the goal to pursue a career in dentistry.

Why did you choose to come to Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM)?

I was really hoping to go to dental school following my senior year of college, but for various reasons, it did not work out that way. While I had a solid Dental Admissions Test (DAT) score and plenty of experience shadowing in the field, I didn’t have the strongest undergraduate GPA. I knew I might have to get a Master’s degree before applying again, and started looking for programs. When I found the BUSM Oral Health Sciences (OHS) Track, I almost thought it was too good to be true! The program was exactly what I needed, and it seemed like it would prepare me well for dental school.

Can you tell me a little about the program you are in?

UNC is a huge school, so to come into a program with only seventeen other students was what initially attracted me to this program. The OHS program is a track within the MA in Medical Sciences program where students take half of their classes with the first-year dental students at the BU Goldman School of Dental Medicine (BUGSDM). These classes are a unique characteristic of the program because they give the OHS students a real chance to experience the rigor of dental school courses. OHS also provides a lot of support to their students. The program director, Dr. Theresa Davies, is so enthusiastic about helping her students achieve their goals. This support system was not something I had in undergrad, and it has really helped me progress through the program.

What are your plans after completing the program?

I officially graduate in September 2013, but I will be walking in the May Commencement ceremony. This fall, I will attend BUGSDM as a dental student. Because I am in the OHS program, I will have already taken a few of my first semester classes, so my schedule will be a little lighter than the other first-year dental students. I hope this extra time will allow me to really focus on my other courses and to explore all my options. After dental school, I want to pursue a specialty in pediatric dentistry or orthodontics.

What do you enjoy doing outside BUSM?

I came to Boston in June 2012 for the very first time when I started the OHS program. I live in the South End with two roommates, and we love being tourists within the city. We are always finding new restaurants to try. I recently attended my first Celtics game, and I want to go on a Duck tour this summer. The winter seemed very long, and I am happy that it is finally starting to warm up.

What advice can you give other GMS students?

No matter what program you are in, give it all you’ve got. Dr. Davies told me when I entered the program that the work in the upcoming year would be my hardest yet, but that I would be successful as long as I put the effort in. Your work is doable, even when it is most challenging. Seek out a support system, whether it is an advisor, a professor, a classmate, or family and friends. There are resources out there for GMS students to help you throughout your career here – you just have to know how to find them. With the right support system and a strong commitment to your work, you will be able to work hard and succeed.

Student Spotlight: Shahar Castel

December 1st, 2012 in Homepage Spotlights, Student Spotlight

Castel.spotlight jpegShahar Castel
Masters Student, Medical Sciences

Did you like the new design for the GMSSO tee-shirt?  If so, keep reading!  Shahar Castel, the designer, is not only an artist, but a young scientist interested in pursuing a medical career.  Born in Israel and raised in Boston, Shahar loves pursuing her many passions close to home.

What brought you to BU?

I have always known that I wanted to pursue a career in science, particularly medicine.  After graduating from Emory University in 2009, I was at a crossroad when it came to choosing the next step for me.  Ideally, I hope to pursue a career in medicine, and to do so, I knew I needed to further my education with a Master’s degree, preferably from a school in Boston where my family and friends are.  My best friend growing up, Ilona Goukassian (MAMS 11’) attended the MA in Medical Sciences (MAMS) program at BUSM directly after graduation, and she shared with me all of the wonderful opportunities this sort of program could provide me, and I was instantly sold.  Although I explored several other programs in New England as well, the MAMS program seemed to have the most to offer.

What are the advantages of pursuing a MAMS degree at BUSM?

The MAMS program at BUSM offers a curriculum that is equivalent to a first-year medical school curriculum, without the clinical time, and provides accurate insight into the academic demands of medical school.  Most MAMS students elect to complete their coursework in the first year, and then complete a thesis project in the second year, although some chose to complete both their courses and thesis in the first year.  I will be completing my thesis this year, after working very hard in my courses last year. I will be working with a plastic surgeon at the Boston Medical Center, Dr. Spiegel, who specializes in Facial Feminization Surgery (FFS). I will be surveying transgender patients on whether FFS helps to improve their psychosocial anxiety as it relates to their appearance.

What do you hope to do after you earn your degree?

I plan to complete my thesis and apply to various medical and doctoral programs next year.  Although traditionally, students will apply to medical schools during the summer directly after completing their first year courses, I have decided to apply the following year, in order to make me the best applicant possible. Additionally, though I ultimately would like to pursue a medical degree, I am also very interested in all the neuropsychological diseases, and could see myself with a research career as well.  This coming year and next will allow me to explore these other options, and see what sparks my interest most!

Are you involved in any activities on campus?

Last year, I volunteered at the Sharewood Projects, which is an organization that offers a free healthcare clinic for the locally underserved population and is led by medical students and physicians at Tufts University School of Medicine.  It was a great experience, and encouraged me to continue pursuing a career in medicine.

You are the designer of the new GMSSO t-shirt.  What was your inspiration?

I love images of city skylines, and I enjoy creating art.  While I tend to sculpt more than anything else, I heard about the GMSSO contest to design a tee-shirt, and thought it was a great opportunity to create a 2-dimensioanl image of the Boston skyline.  After three months from submitting my design, I heard that I had won and was thrilled.

What do you enjoy doing outside of BU?

I currently live with two out of my three older sisters in the South End area of Boston.  It is great to be able to come home to them and have distance from what I am learning about in class or the research I am doing for my thesis.  I am usually working on a piece of art, which I like to give as gifts for my friends and family.  Additionally, I am teaching myself to play the piano, I am trying to learn Spanish (something I have always wanted to do), and I play for the Boston Ski and Sports Club soccer league on a co-ed team that I have been playing for over the last 3 years. I also played in an indoor soccer league with a team of other GMS graduate students last year.

Do you have any advice for current students?

The MAMS program is a lot of work.  Students in this program cannot expect to “cram” and do well.  You really have to work at managing your time so that you can review lectures and keep up with all the work.  In the first semester, I did nothing but study.  You don’t have a lot of time to relax, so you have to make time for yourself, even if it’s just taking an hour to watch a TV show, or meeting friends outside of school. In the second semester, you learn how to balance all the work and life outside of school.

In general, I would say make sure to use all the resources BUSM has to offer you.  At orientation, the GMS professors tell us that they are here for us, and they really mean it!  Ask your instructors for help; they really want to be there for you and help you succeed.  And don’t be afraid to get tutors for any classes you may be having trouble in!

Spotlight on Students: Ridda Hasnain

May 31st, 2012 in Homepage Spotlights, Student Spotlight

Husain, Ridda-for websiteMedicine is not only about healing—it is about prevention.  Ridda Hasnain, a Ph.D. student in the Medical Nutrition Program, understands this concept and hopes to use her BUSM education to establish preventative health measures around the globe.

When did you first know you wanted to pursue science?

From a very young age, I was interested in human health.  Throughout my undergraduate education, I planned to pursue a career as a medical physician.  When I arrived at Columbia University for my Master’s, however, I grew a specific interest in human nutrition.  As I completed my degree, I realized that I wanted to prevent, rather than treat, medical conditions.  When I understood how my research in nutrition could prevent diseases, I decided to pursue a doctoral degree.

What brought you to BU?

When I started searching for the right doctoral program, Boston University School of Medicine stood out.  BUSM was different from a lot of other schools because it offered an integrative and collaborative experience.  Graduate students, regardless of what program they were in, worked with multiple departments and multiple investigators from different labs.  Students interact with faculty and peers outside of their own program.  I thought this interaction would be a valuable part of my graduate education and prepare me for a career where there is much collaboration and interaction.  Also, BUSM has a diverse student body.  My peers and I come from all different backgrounds, and we all have varying research interests.  I believe that this diversity and transfer of ideas will help me in the long run.

Can you tell me a little about the program you are in?

I am in the Medical Nutrition Sciences Program.  Compared to other nutrition programs in the country, this program is relatively new.  Because it is new, the current students really have an opportunity to shape the future of the program.  There are three tracks in the program tailored to meet the needs of each individual in Medical Nutrition Sciences program:  molecular/biochemical nutrition, clinical nutrition, and nutritional epidemiology.

The basic sciences track explores the biochemistry behind nutrition and how nutrients interact with the body while the clinical track is designed to educate students on how nutrition research can be applied to preventative measures in the clinic.  The third track, epidemiology of nutrition, is the track that I am pursuing and examines causes of disease and their association with nutrition.

What do you hope to do after you earn your degree?

In a general scope, I want to research and find components of the human diet that prevent diseases, but I also want to have clinical exposure to teach patients that there are wholesome and natural approaches to preventing disease.  I hope to be able to impact the community and improve public health policy.  In Pakistan, where I am from, there is little awareness of how diet can affect lifestyle, and I hope to develop a program here and abroad to fill this gap in knowledge.

You recently presented at the 2012 Future of Food and Nutrition Conference and won the award for best presentation.  Can you tell me a little about your research and that experience?

The Future of Food and Nutrition Conference is a student-led conference at Tufts University.  I presented a poster on dietary protein and its impact on body composition and risk of obesity.  Overall, it was a great experience because it gave me the opportunity to learn about the research my colleagues from other institutions were performing, and to think of novel questions related to my own research based on my presentation and discussion with other scientists.

Are you involved in other activities on campus?

I am involved in the admissions and recruiting process for the Medical Nutrition Sciences program.  This is an interesting and rewarding role because it really does help to shape the future of the program.  I get to meet with prospective and incoming students to advise them in any areas they may need help.

What do you enjoy doing outside the walls of BU?

I love trying new cuisines! Given my field of study, it’s not secret that I absolutely love food.  I also enjoy traveling whenever I can. And I love to just spend time with my family and friends and take advantage of all that Boston has to offer.

What advice can you give other postdocs, or GMS students?

I think it may be helpful to many students if they start a PhD program with a general interest, rather than a highly specialized goal.  PhD students will go through many rotations in different labs with different principle investigators, and these experiences will help them develop their general interest while finding a lab environment they can work in.  Also, rotations are a time to apply your knowledge to novel questions.

Students should take advantage of all the BU campus has to offer.  For instance, taking a class that is unrelated to your field may help you in some way later on in your career.  Also, talk to your peers.  These discussions will help shape what it is you want to accomplish while here are BUSM.

Spotlight on Students: Whitney Thomas

May 17th, 2012 in Homepage Spotlights, Student Spotlight

Thomas, WhitneyGraduating on Friday, May 18th at the GMS M.A./M.S. Commencement Ceremony, Whitney Thomas reflects on her two years as a MAMS student.

When did you first know you wanted to pursue science?

When I was in grade school, I remember telling my parents that I wanted to be an ambulance driver when I grew up.  Not the EMT in the back helping the patient on the way to the hospital; the actual ambulance driver.  When I entered high school, I started volunteering for the local rescue squad.  I think it was then that I knew I wanted to go to medical school.  At Bates College I majored in neuroscience, which exposed me to the unique interplay between mind and body, and had various shadowing experiences which solidified my decision to study medicine.

What brought you to BU?

After I graduated from Bates, I took two years off from school to work at the NIH in a lab that studied Pediatric Bipolar Disorder.  I heard about the MA in Medical Sciences program here at BUSM and thought it would be a great stepping stone back into academia and help prepare me for medical school.  I looked at some other similar Masters programs, but BU seemed to have the best one, and the best location.  I really enjoy living in Boston.

Can you tell me a little about the MAMS program you are in?

I am currently finishing up my second year and just completed my thesis.  The first year is class-driven and focused on academics, which I really enjoyed.  It gave me a realistic glimpse to what medical school will be like.  I have definitely gained confidence in my capability to succeed in medical school based on my success in this program.  The greatest adjustment for me in the MAMS program was the class size.  I remember on the first day of class in Bakst Auditorium, I suddenly felt very hot.  The room was filled with 200 people!  That was a huge difference from Bates, where the class size was much smaller.  Despite these large classes, however, MAMS and GMS create a small community, and if you put in the effort, you will realize that the professors do want to get to know the students.

What are your plans after completing the MAMS program?

I applied to medical school last year, and will be attending the University of Vermont College of Medicine.  Right now, I am considering primary care, specifically obstetrics and gynecology.  I really enjoyed the research I did for my thesis, but I am mostly interested in clinical medicine.  Eventually, as a practicing physician, I would hope to participate in research as it fits in with my practice.

You have helped to organize a Sarcoma Awareness event for this Friday.  Can you tell me a little about that?

In January 2012, the MAMS community lost a member to sarcoma.  As a member of the GMSSO, I helped organize an awareness talk in her honor to help raise money for sarcoma research.  Sarcoma is a type of cancer that originates in bone or connective tissue.  It is relatively uncommon and is very difficult to treat.  Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is performing innovative and interesting research on this cancer, and the speaker we invited is a member of the sarcoma team there.  Approximately 40 people attended the event.

Are you involved in other activities on campus?

I serve on a small committee as a liaison between the MAMS students and Dr. Gwynneth Offner, the director of the program.  We meet with her every month to discuss issues and ideas that my peers may have.  Additionally, I volunteer with the GMSSO for events such as orientation, commencement, Project Gratitude, and blood drives, and I tutor three first-year MAMS students in Physiology and Endocrinology.  Last summer I volunteered for the Outreach Van Project and enjoyed spending time with community members from East Boston who are in need of food and/or medical support.

What do you enjoy doing outside the walls of BU?

I like to stay active, whether I am hiking, biking, or riding one of my horses when I go home to Vermont.  I also enjoy baking, and I love going out to eat when I can.  Boston is such an exciting city, and I love to explore all the opportunities it provides.  Traveling is another fun hobby, and I visit my friends in different parts of the country whenever I can.  I also work part-time in retail.

What advice can you give other GMS students?

My two years went by so quickly.  It is important to take advantage of all the opportunities BU and the city of Boston have to offer, whether it be playing squash at FitRec or visiting a museum.  Also, the professors are very knowledgeable, not only about the subject they teach, but about medical school, and life in general.  Importantly, they are always willing to help, so don’t hesitate to contact them.  Finally, don’t forget to have fun and meet new people.  GMS provides a great community that you will want to participate in.

Madeline Brisotti and Tanaya Kunnenkeri

April 19th, 2012 in Homepage Spotlights, Student Spotlight

Tanaya and Maddy1Student Spotlight

Balancing a job and a earning a Master’s degree can be a daunting task.  Madeline Brisotti and Tanaya Kunnenkeri, both in the Mental Health Counseling and Behavioral Medicine program, make it look easy.  Working in the GMS Division Office a little every week, they find numerous ways to help their graduate and Boston community.

Why did you decide to pursue a degree in Mental Health Counseling?

Tanaya: I started my undergraduate education at the University of Toronto in Biomedical Engineering.  By my third year, I was more interested in a human-oriented field rather than working with machines.  After switching my concentration to Life Sciences, I ended up earning a Psychology degree.  This eventually led me to pursue an internship in a day treatment center for an orphanage in Bolivia.

Maddy: I received my undergraduate education from BU, and after I graduated, I worked for a behavioral neuroscience lab at Boston University.  After a couple of years in this position, I realized that I really wanted to work with people, rather than animal subjects in a laboratory..  As I was working on projects focused on drug research, I could see how my experience could be translated to substance abuse counseling.

What brought you to BU?

Maddy: I chose BU for my undergraduate education, and I loved the community.  When a job became available after I earned my Bachelor’s, I jumped on the opportunity to stay here.  After deciding to go back to school, I did consider other programs, but BU had the exact program that I wanted.  BU has given a lot to me because I have been able to stay in the University community, both on the Charles River Campus and the Medical Campus.

Tanaya: After completing my undergraduate studies in Psychology, it soon became very clear to me that I would need to further my degree in order to move forward in my profession.  I applied to the Mental Health Counseling and Behavioral Medicine program because this program included the behavioral medicine component, and it provided ample opportunity to get hands-on clinical experience.  Another factor that led me to Boston was that I was dating my now husband who is a Bostonian.

Can you tell me a little about the program?

Maddy: The Mental Health Counseling and Behavioral Medicine is a two-year program that incorporates the new direction mental health is going.  What I like most about the program is the small class size.  One of my favorite parts about the program has been getting to know my peers and faculty.  What is particularly unique about BU’s program is that it is situated on a medical campus.

Tanaya: The program is completely different from my undergraduate experience.  University of Toronto has 60,000 students, and I was unable to have valuable interactions with all my professors.  Here at BUSM, all the faculty in my program are very involved in our growth as students and budding clinicians.  BUSM offers an intimate educational environment, where your peers have passions similar to yours.  This passion among my classmates and teachers is contagious, and is really motivating.

What is your second year internship like?

Tanaya: My program provides you with the opportunity to complete a full year internship in your second year along with a first-year practicum in the Spring or Summer semester.  Currently, I am placed at Boston Medical Center at the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Department.  I have always been interested in working with children, and working at BMC has given me more of a clinical experience than my time interning at the orphanage in Bolivia.

Maddy: I am doing my internship at South Boston Collaborative Center, which is a substance abuse outpatient center sponsored by the Boston Public Health Commission.  I primarily work with adults at the clinic, but I do have the opportunity to work in a South Boston high school once a week to work with adolescents as well.  Overall, the experience has been incredibly rewarding, though some days are extremely challenging.  In addition to my internship, I am also taking a full course load.

What do you hope to do after you earn your degree?

Maddy: I like working with adolescents more than I thought I would.  Initially, I had thought about working with adults around substance abuse, but now I think it would be nice to work with adolescents as well, either from a home based or school based setting.  It would be really great if I could find a site that offers both.

Tanaya: Though I love working with children, I am open to gaining more experience with the adult population. After graduation I am looking to pursue a career working with children and families in an outpatient setting.

You both are student workers in the GMS Division office.  What is that like?

Tanaya: The experience has been great.  I have had the opportunity to work on various administrative projects, which has been a nice break from my courses and internship.  Everyone in the office values the student workers, and the work we do.  They try very hard to make us feel like part of the office, and part of the team, even though we only work a few hours a week.  They are always available and open for questions.

Maddy: After I started the program, I was still working in the neuroscience lab.  By the second semester of my first year, I was ready for a change.  My advisor suggested that I work in the Division office.  The GMS office gives me tasks that required organization and structure, and I enjoy that kind of work.  These are qualities that are not always a part of counseling.  I have helped with Admissions, and also helped develop a database for all GMS alumni.

Are you involved in other activities on campus?

Tanaya: Last summer I assisted as a peer mentor for the summer research program offered by GMS.  It was a great experience, because even though all the summer students were researching biomedical sciences, I had the opportunity to learn about their projects and lab experiences.  I also enjoyed the process of watching them grow and mature over the course of eight weeks.

Maddy: Classes, internship, and work take up most of my time.

What do you enjoy doing outside the walls of BU?

Maddy: I enjoy traveling home to Long Island and seeing my family.  It is a great place to recharge my battery and just enjoy being out of the city.  I don’t really have much free time right now, though I enjoy imagining what I can do if I ever do have some!  Right now, I am focused mostly on completing my resume and applying to jobs.

Tanaya: I recently got married, and have had the privilege of experiencing the joys and new responsibilities that come as a newlywed.  My husband has been extremely supportive of all my endeavors.  I also really like yoga and dance, though these are the two things I have sacrificed from my schedule for the time being.  I really hope to incorporate yoga into the future clinical work that I do, and I would love to take up dance again when I have the time.  I am also involved with the youth at my church.

What advice can you give other GMS students?

Tanaya: I would highly recommend using the support system in the GMS Office, and taking an initiative to get to know the faculty members in your program.  If I could do it all over again, I would join a student organization, or participate in dance as an outlet during my time as a student.  Using the CRC campus, including the FitRec is a great idea.

Maddy: I would encourage students to get to know the faculty members in their program beyond their advisor.  Take classes outside of the program.  I took a class at the School of Social Work and gained a whole new perspective.  It is good to see all the other courses that BU has to offer.  Counseling and Social Work are   female dominated careers.  I would encourage men to apply to the program.  They would definitely have an edge when it comes time to find a job.

2012 Russek Day Abstracts extended to April 26.

April 19th, 2012 in Academics, Research, Student Spotlight

Abstracts are currently being accepted for the 18th annual Russek Student Achievement day.    Information and abstract submission details can be found here.